Congo rebel leader Sultani Makenga enters the city of Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The United Nations Security Council has condemned the move., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Congo: UN security council condemns Goma takeover by M23 rebels
Vote calls for rebels to pull back and disarm, while France criticises United Nations force for surrendering city
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 20 November 2012 22.35 EST
The United Nations security council has unanimously condemned the seizure of the Congolese city of Goma and asked the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, to report on what external support the rebels have received.
Diplomats at the United Nations and regional mediators in Central Africa sought on Wednesday night to ward off a deeper conflict after rebels widely believed to be backed by Rwanda captured the eastern Congolese city.
Uganda's president is trying to broker a meeting between the leaders of Congo and Rwanda in Kampala.
The French government expressed broad frustrations with UN peacekeepers, who gave up the battle for the town of one million after Congo's army retreated. France said it was "absurd" the force known as Monusco did not protect the city.
The government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has accused neighbouring Rwanda, whose army had repeatedly intervened in Congo's conflicts during the last 15 years, of backing the rebels. Kigali denies the charge and has called for dialogue.
The security council approved a resolution drafted by France, releasing a statement that "demands the immediate withdrawal of the M23 from Goma, the cessation of any further advances by the M23 and that its members immediately and permanently disband and lay down their arms".
The council expressed "deep concern at reports indicating that external support continues to be provided to the M23, including through troop reinforcement, tactical advice and the supply of equipment, causing a significant increase of the military abilities of the M23, and demands that any and all outside support to the M23 cease immediately".
Hundreds of rebels, who took up arms in April complaining that Kinshasa had failed to comply with the terms of a deal that ended a previous rebellion in 2009, poured into the lakeside town on Tuesday. After sporadic gunfire, government troops melted away to the west.
UN peacekeepers who had launched helicopter gunships to back the army did nothing to stop rebels moving into town. The French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, said: "Monusco is 17,000 soldiers but sadly it was not in a position to prevent what happened. It is necessary that the Monusco mandate is reviewed."
A senior UN official, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the withdrawal of civilian and military Congolese officials had left a void it could not fill alone. "We're not the army of any country, let alone the Congolese army, and it's not for us to take positions by ourselves to stop a rebel attack or the movement of rebels," the official said. "Our job is to protect civilians."
The M23 rebellion has aggravated tensions between Congo and its neighbour Rwanda, which Kinshasa's government says is orchestrating the insurgency as a means of grabbing the chaotic region's mineral wealth that includes diamonds, gold and coltan, used in mobile phones.