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D.R. Congo: Rwandan troops fighting alongside rebels to capture the city of Goma

Causing a stir in Goma: M23 rebels

Causing havoc in Goma: M23 rebels

Despite the international pressure, President Kagame remains defiant. For a month now, North Kivu civil society and others have reported increased crossings of Rwandan soldiers into DRC to help M23 and have called on the international community to take appropriate measures. They have identified among many Colonel Bingira, a Rwanda military officer who is currently commanding Rwandan and M23 troops.

The same source reported that Rwanda has put Mr. Laurent Nkunda back in the game, whose presence was reported at a high level meeting between M23 leadership and newly arrived Rwandan troops in Rumangabo military base on May 11, 2013. Laurent Nkunda is the former leader of this same rebel movement when it was called the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP). He currently lives with impunity across the border in Rwanda where he continues to play a key role in the M23 rebellion. Advocacy groups have asked the Rwandan government to hand him over to DRC’s authorities or send exile him far from the region. The current M23 leader is Nkunda’s brother in-law.

Physical and economic terror reigns in M23 controlled areas. The rebels rape, kill, loot, and forcefully recruit soldiers, even children. Communities may be forced into monthly or weekly extortion taxes, be forced to endure checkpoints on roads and in markets, or have family members kidnapped for ransom.

After months of calm while the governments negotiated with M23 leadership, the rebels have resumed hostilities in an effort to take the city of Goma before the UN combat battalion begins its mission. Under UN Resolution 2098, this battalion has an offensive mandate to once and for all dismantle the multiple rebel groups in DRC. Soldiers from South Africa, Malawi and Tanzania compose the battalion; some soldiers are already in DRC.

On Tuesday, May 21, in Gisenyi, the Rwandan border city to Goma, General Ruvusha, a Rwandan officer, chaired a meeting with M23 leadership and committed to send 2 additional battalions to help capture the city of Goma as quickly as possible. The evening of Wednesday May 22, M23 started shelling the city of Goma.

Source: Africa Faith and Justice Network

May 23, 2013   No Comments

Rwandan M23 rebels in DRC fire shells, killing civilians in Goma

Medical personnel treat a wounded person after a mortar exploded in a neighborhood of Goma, eastern Congo, May 22, 2013

Medical personnel treat a wounded person after a mortar exploded in Goma, May 22, 2013

GOMA, DRC — A third day of fighting between the government army and rebels in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has caused several civilian deaths in the city of Goma. Rockets and artillery shells have been landing in Goma just a day before the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is due to visit the city.

Since early on Wednesday there have been sporadic explosions in the Ndosho section of Goma. Since the M23 rebels are a few kilometers north of Ndosho and have been firing artillery in a southerly direction, it seems likely the exploding shells were fired by them.

The fighting on Wednesday appears to have been largely an artillery duel, with both sides firing mortars and rockets, but neither side engaging in close combat.

A spokesman for the rebels, Vianney Kazarama, said the army had been firing at their positions since 6 a.m.

A government soldier told VOA the rebels had failed to take their objectives on Tuesday and now were just trying to scare civilians by firing off occasional rockets and mortar rounds.

Some civilians have been leaving the area. One of them, Antoine Matabishi, who was carrying away a mattress,said artillery rounds had been falling on the neighborhood every hour or so. He said he is leaving because an artillery round landed on a house nearby and killed two children.

The house where the shell had landed was about a hundred meters away and already was being repaired, though neighbors said there was a still a corpse inside. The body of a 13-year-old boy was lying under a sheet in the front room. The boy had suffered a massive head wound.

A neighbor, Alain Pitchen, described what had happened. He said the boy was sitting at a table outside the house having a meal when the shell landed and exploded, and you could still see his meal there. The parents took another of their children, a 3-year-old who was wounded, to the hospital, but Pitchen said that boy also died.

Another neighbor, Hubert Masombo, said he had no doubt about where the artillery round came from. He said the bomb was fired by the M23 rebels. He went on to say the Congo has suffered from wars for too long, and he had a message for the UN’s Ban.

He said he hoped that all of the countries in the world would help to end the DRC’s wars.

There were several other civilian casualties Wednesday in Goma, also from artillery round explosions in the Ndosho neighborhood.

The United Nations security chief in Goma said there is a risk of the secretary general’s visit being canceled, but said that Ban wants it to proceed.

Source: Voice of America

May 23, 2013   No Comments