Conflict & Justice

DR Congo: M23 rebels begin 'liberation' march on Kinshasa


Surrendered police officers stand at the Volcanoes Stadium in Goma, in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on Nov. 21, 2012. M23 rebels - who took the city the day before - called on any remaining policemen and army soldiers to assemble at the stadium to officially surrender and hand in their weapons.


Phil Moore

Rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo have threatened to march on the capital, Kinshasa, in order to "liberate" the country.

At a victory rally in Goma, the eastern city the M23 rebel group seized control of Tuesday, a spokesman said the fighters would be marching south to the city of Buvaku, then on to Kinshasa.

"The journey to liberate Congo has started now," Reuters quoted rebel Vianney Kazarama as saying.

The news agency reported that the rebels had reached Sake, a town around 16 miles from Goma on the way to Buvaku, by Wednesday afternoon. They took it without resistance, witnesses said.

Congolese President Joseph Kabila, backed by his Rwandan and Ugandan counterparts Paul Kagame and Yoweri Museveni, has called on the rebels to halt their offensive and pull out of Goma "immediately," according to the BBC.

The three leaders met for crisis talks Wednesday in the Ugandan capital, Kampala. As GlobalPost reported last month, United Nations observers have accused the Rwandan and Ugandan governments of backing the M23 rebels, a charge that both deny.

More from GlobalPost: Congo rebellion threatens regional war

The UN Security Council on Tuesday night passed a resolution condemning the rebels' actions and demanding that "any and all outside support to the M23 cease immediately."

UN peacekeepers, however, have been criticized for not doing more to stop the rebels advancing. The BBC said there had been protests Wednesday in Buvaku at the perceived failure of the peacekeeping force and Congolese army to protect civilians, while France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called it "absurd" that UN troops had not better defended Goma.

The head of the UN's peacekeeping operations, Hervé Ladsous, said the troops' job was to protect civilians, "not to take out the M23."

Ladsous told Radio France Internationale that Congolese soldiers had abandoned their posts first. The rebels claim that almost 3,000 Congolese troops and police have defected to their side, according to the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, the UN says it received reports that rebels are using child soldiers and carrying out summary executions, sexual violence and other serious human rights abuses against the civilian population.