11/21/2012

Kabila, Kagame fly in for talks as Goma falls 0

Congolese President Joseph Kabila yesterday rushed to Kampala for what sources said was a crisis meeting with President Museveni hours after M23 rebels captured Goma, the commercial capital of eastern Congo’s North Kivu province.
He arrived in the country at 2 pm. Two hours later, Rwandan President Paul Kagame quickly followed him as fighting escalated in the Kivu region.
The venue of their meeting was still not known by press time. Sources, however, indicated that President Museveni was scheduled to first meet the two separately before later sitting them down together.
Congolese forces fled their bases in Goma, leaving behind assorted weaponry while the UN peacekeeping mission’s bases in the provincial capital were reportedly surrounded by the rebels.
State minister for regional cooperation Asuman Kiyingi confirmed Mr Kabila’s sudden appearance but described his presence in Kampala as “a normal visit”. “He has been here many times. We have also visited Kinshasa before. This is a normal visit. It’s good that he has come so that we sit down and end this crisis,” he said.
DR Congo is adamant that the largely Tutsi-dominated M23 rebels are receiving military backing from Rwanda, a charge Kigali has consistently rejected.
Several investigations by the UN Group of Experts have also shown that M23 is being propped up by Rwanda, but this too has been vigorously denied by Rwanda.
The meeting of foreign affairs ministers from the Great Lakes Region that is going on in Speke Resort Munyonyo appears to have been overtaken by yesterday’s abrupt arrival of Kabila and Kagame.
News of the advancing rebels was reportedly met with violent protests in the other Congolese cities of Kisangani and Kinshasa. Unknown persons are reported to have attempted to force their way into Rwandan and Ugandan embassies in Kinshasa yesterday but they were driven away by state security forces.
Uganda’s State minister for International Relations, Mr Okello Oryem, told media that security has now been stepped up at both embassies.
Reports from eastern DRC last night said rebel columns were seen marching out of Goma along the road to the South Kivu town of Bukavu. Although M23 says it’s fighting the government over marginalisation of Tutsis, Kinshasa says the reason for the rebellion is over control of Congo’s minerals, a good chunk of which is concentrated in North and South Kivu provinces.
Implication
If the rebels succeed in taking Bukavu, it will mark the biggest gain in rebel territory since at least 2003, when Congo’s last war with its neighbours ended.
Goma was last threatened by rebels in 2008 when fighters from the now-defunct National Congress for the Defence of the People, (CNDP) under Gen. Laurent Nkunda stopped just short of Goma, after intense international pressure.
Their backs to the wall, the Congolese government agreed to enter into talks with the CNDP and a year later, on March 23, 2009, a peace deal was negotiated calling for the CNDP to put down their arms in return for being integrated into the national army.
The peace deal fell apart this April, when soldiers, most of them ex-CNDP members, defected from the army and later rallied under the M23 umbrella, claiming that the Congolese government had failed to uphold their end of the deal.

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By Risdel Kasasira