Rwanda Focus (Kigali)

23 November 2012

Congo-Kinshasa: M23 Rebels Lose Sake to Government Forces

Sources in the DRC town of Sake about 30 km out of Goma say that the M23 rebels have been chased out of the town which they had captured on Wednesday.

Javier Mukubu, a Congolese national who's driving some international journalists around the conflict ravaged areas deeper in DRC, told The Rwanda Focus that the rebels were defeated last evening.

The M23 rebels had captured Sake on Wednesday afternoon and vowed to march on to other areas until Kabila agreed for peace talks. The fall of Sake on Thursday is now also turning out to be the reason the press conference the rebels were slated to address the same afternoon was canceled abruptly despite hundreds of journalists having waited for hours outside the Ihusi hotel near the DRC-Rwanda border.

Amani Kabasha, the vice-representative of the department of communication and media in the rebel ranks who turned up at the hotel briefly told the press there was no conference as "their leader" had gone to Kampala.

Kabasha, who didn't mention the name of the M23 leader in question, barely stayed for ten minutes after delivering his message. Most journalists present assumed it was the M23 chief Commander, General Sultan Makenga.

However, this Friday morning, it's emerging that the rebel commander couldn't have abandoned his soldiers in the important battle to retain Sake. Therefore, Kabasha was probably referring to the group's chairman, pastor Javier Runiga Jamari.

Whoever went to Kampala, Goma residents are banking on the success of the peace talks as many are worried that failure might bring the fight back to Goma.

Apparently, when the press was waiting for the rebel briefing yesterday afternoon, heavy fighting was ongoing in Sake and M23 was losing.

This morning, some international media outlets reported that the Government forces managed victory after they teamed up with the notorious Mai-Mai fighters to defeat M23 rebels.

With Sake retaken just hours after the rebels had captured it, it leaves many in Goma worried that the government might try to push the rebels out of Goma.

"This is why our only hope is that Kampala talks succeed because if the rebels refuse to cooperate and government chooses to use force then we shall be in trouble once more," said Franco Kwizera, a businessman in Goma.

Meanwhile, Congolese President Joseph Kabila has suspended the head of the army's ground forces over a United Nations report accusing him of selling weapons to criminal and rebel groups. Lambert Mende, the Congolese Communications Minister, told reporters in the capital Kinshasa on Thursday that General Gabriel Amisi was suspended pending a "thorough investigation" into the accusations.

The report, written for the UN by a group of independent experts and published on Wednesday, alleges that Amisi runs a huge arms smuggling network supplying weapons and ammunition to criminal groups and rebels, including Congolese rebels.

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