Rwanda Focus (Kigali)

22 November 2012

Congo-Kinshasa: M23 Leader Off to Kampala As Musoni Meets Leaders in Rubavu

The rebels now say they're ready to march into Bukavu, the other major city on the border with Rwanda. The M23 then plans to head to Kisangani, and ... ( Resource: DRC Rebels 'March to Take Capital'

Events are moving fast in DRC two days after M23 rebels captured Goma city in North Kivu.

According to unconfirmed information, M23 leader general Sultan Makenga has bowed to pressure and left for Kampala on Thursday afternoon for talks with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

About two hundred journalists were gathered at Ihusi Hotel in Goma waiting for a press conference that the rebel leader was to address at 3:30 pm. But by 4:00 pm, he hadn't turned up, forcing many to suspect he might have changed plans.

At about a quarter past 4pm this evening, a white four-wheel-drive vehicle with civilian number plates pulled into the hotel premises and a rebel official came out - yet it was not Makenga.

Addressing local and international journalists, the short dark man with slightly whitening hair who was dressed in black slacks and a white shirt introduced himself in French as Amani Kabasha, the vice-representative of the department of communication and media in the rebel ranks.

"As you might already have heard of ongoing events in both Kampala and New York, our leader couldn't be here with you as earlier communicated because he has just left for Kampala," Kabasha explained.

According to Kabasha, the rebels will communicate a new date when they will officially talk to the.

Both the UN and a tripartite meeting chaired by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and attended by DRC leader Joseph Kabila and Rwanda's Paul Kagame resolved that the M23 rebels should vacate the areas they captured on Tuesday morning.

The UN even sounded sterner, announcing that they will not recognize the M23 takeover of Goma and instead promised to slap sanctions against them. Yet on Thursday, the rebels were adamant indicating during their first security meeting in Goma that they will not respect UN calls.

General Makanga's travel to Kampala is seen here as a positive development mainly because it shows the rebels are willing to listen to regional leaders. It is also the first time the rebels have been invited for talks which means they are now recognized as a serious group worth talking to.

During the Kampala meeting, Joseph Kabila also promised to listen to and consider the demands of the rebels, another indication that both parties might reach an understanding.

James Musoni in Rubavu

Meanwhile on the Rwandan side of the border, Local Government Minister James Musoni met local leaders of Rubavu district and urged them to remain alert. He stressed that despite continued allegations that Rwanda is collaborating with the rebels, the government remains in constant contact with their Congolese counterparts, adding that there are no ties whatsoever with the rebels.

"We actually caution our residents not to move into Goma unnecessarily because we can't guarantee their security in a territory which is being held by rebels," Musoni warned.

Musoni also expressed confidence in the ongoing peace efforts by Kampala to reach a permanent solution for the eastern DRC problem.

But this might take time as people who have been to Goma and its vicinity on Thursday told The Rwanda Focus that there was fighting between the rebels and government soldiers in Sake Town, located about 30km from Goma. Later, the rebels reported that they had captured the town and vowed to take more towns.

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