Congo rebel leader Sultani Makenga had entered 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.
12/2/12 1:53 PM
Congo rebels complete Goma pullout
GOMA - Rebels believed to be backed by Rwanda completed their retreat from Congo's eastern provincial capital on Saturday less than two weeks after taking control of the strategic city, a military official said.
The retreat, however, may be tentative after a leader for the M23 rebels said they now wanted to negotiate with the government within 48 hours.
Ugandan Brig. Jeffrey Muheesi, who is part of a mission sent by regional leaders to oversee the rebel retreat, said the rebels' pullout from Goma was complete.
"They have pulled out of Sake and Goma, and now Congolese government policemen are controlling the central bank, the governor's office and the border post," he said from the outskirts of Goma.
The M23 rebels took the capital of North Kivu on Nov. 20, after battling the Congolese army for nearly a day. The group had defied two earlier ultimatums to leave Goma, raising the possibility they did not intend to leave and giving credence to a U.N. report accusing
Rwanda of using the rebels as a proxy to annex territory in the mineral-rich eastern Congo.
The eight-month-old M23 rebellion is led by fighters from a now-defunct rebel group, who agreed to lay down their arms on March 23, 2009, in return for being allowed to join the ranks of the Congolese army. M23 takes its name from the date of that accord, and the
rebellion began in April, when hundreds of soldiers defected from the military, saying that the terms of the accord had not been respected.
In fact, most analysts believe the origin of the rebellion is a fight over Congo's vast mineral wealth, a good chunk of which is found in the North Kivu province where Goma is the capital. Starting this spring, the fighters seized a series of small towns and villages in North
Kivu, culminating with the capture of Goma, a population hub of 1 million and a key, mineral trading post.
The regional bloc representing the nations bordering Congo had issued a Friday deadline for the M23 fighters to retreat from Goma, after the rebels had thumbed their nose at an earlier ultimatum. M23 rebels began retreating on Tuesday from the other territories they seized.