27 November 2012

Congo-Kinshasa: DRC Rebels Refuse to Vacate Mineral-Rich Goma

M23 rebel group says it will withdraw from the city of Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but only if the president meets their conditions. ... ( Resource: DR Congo Govt Rejects M23 Ultimatum )

Goma — The M23 rebels who on Tuesday last week captured Goma, the Eastern Provincial capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) at the border with Rwanda say they will not vacate the oil rich town even after piling pressure from regional and international voices.

On Tuesday at around midday, the rebels who the international community alleges are being supported by both Rwanda and Uganda captured the mineral rich town of Goma after government soldiers backed by UN peace keepers fled the city following cunning offensives from the M23 fighters.

Several hundreds of thousands had fled the DRC into neighboring Rwandan towns to escape fire which spilled over to Rwandan territory injuring several people and killing at least two civilians according to authorities there.

The EABW Reporter who visited Goma town shortly after falling to the M23-rebels reports that business was back to normal by Wednesday, a day after the town was captured.

There was no looting carried out by the ensuing takeover of the town as the rebels keen on winning over the local support ensured all businesses were protected from vandalism or thefts.

Shortly after capturing the town, the rebels restricted entry by non-locals or residents of Goma as another precaution to protect property of locals who had fled the area in fright.

The Goma Airport just a stone throw away from the Rwandan border was closed for the better half of last week as rebels put in place a mechanism to run it.

At the Airport, UN peace keepers could be seen idling visibly bored by the situation.

The rebels were largely welcomed by locals in the Goma town who claimed that the new controllers are 'peaceful, organized, civilian friendly and have not distorted any money from them as the Government authorities had done.

According to M23 soldiers who talked to The EABW, over 2000 police officers and government soldiers had defected to their ranks after Goma fell.

On Wednesday morning, the M23 official spokesperson, Col. Jean Marie Vianny Kazarama addressed the first rally by the rebels to thousands of returning locals held in a dusty football stadium, Stade des Volcanoes, two kilometers from the Rwanda-DRC border.

During the rally, locals shouted their applause with many urging the rebels to march on to other towns including Bukavu, Kisangani and the Capital Kinshasa.

During his speech, Kazarama urged the locals to support 'the revolution' and help cause positive change in their city adding that President Kabila who had rushed to Uganda after Goma's capture, had lied to them about everything.

The M23 rebels told locals that they will provide them full security to ensure their businesses are not affected by the events.

Earlier on Tuesday evening, the rebels issued an announcement through a branch of the Congolese national TV and Radio calling on police and other hiding security agencies of the Government to return and report themselves to the M23 leaders during the first rally at the stadium.

Many heeded the call and showed up and handed over hundreds of guns and Uniforms and pledged their willingness to work with the rebel administration of the town.

In total, rebel sources told The EABW that over 2000 both police and military had surrendered to their ranks.

Still on Wednesday, there was a rush by the youth to voluntarily join the rebel ranks after Col. Kazarama's speech in which he said all who wanted to join their active service were welcome.

As all this was on-going, the UN and the white house issued statements condemning the M23 takeover of Goma town calling on their immediate vacation of all occupied areas or face heavy sanctions from the international community.

But M23 rebels who talked to this paper said they were going nowhere especially after the same UN which was allegedly aiding Government soldiers to attack them were the ones issuing the orders.

A tripartite meeting between Uganda's Kaguta, Rwanda's Kagame and DRC's Kabila was held in Kampala on Wednesday last week and the three heads of State recommended that the rebels give up Goma control.

In return, Kabila promised that his Government will study the rebel demands old and new and stated that he was ready for negotiations.

As of Thursday and Friday last week, the rebels were yet to issue a formal response to Kampala's resolutions and businesses were back to full operations in Goma's shanty and crowded town.

Makey Tabaza, a Ugandan businessman operating in Goma told this reporter that he was fully back in business (running a spare parts shop) but said he was keeping an eye on the situation just in-case the current stability falls apart.

Charles Muzima, a garage owner said he was also operating normally despite a few worries.

"We are operating but cautiously," he told the EABW Reporter.

Many residents especially women are still taking their time to return to the delicate and unpredictable Goma and it's mostly men making the return.

Despite being in the thick of events, locals are in constant small groups gathered around small radio receivers apparently to catch up on the latest discussions high up involving their leaders and international community.

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