Sunday, November 18, 2012

Congo: Goma watch. ( I suspect falls )

The Daily Monitor reports

DR rebels warn UN not to attack them

Rebels advancing in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday warned UN peacekeepers that "we will respond" if they fail to stop backing the regular army by strafing rebel positions.
UN attack helicopters launched sorties against M23 rebels on Saturday but failed to prevent them from taking another town, as the Security Council demanded an end to foreign support for rebels closing in on the provincial capital of Goma.

The UN mission is on the line here. Failure to protect Goma would destroy its raison d' etre.  And it looks like it has failed. 
Kinshasa meanwhile made fresh accusations against its eastern neighbour Rwanda, saying it was backing the rebel forces.

KINSHASA (Reuters) - United Nations attack helicopters hit rebel positions in eastern Congo on Saturday after insurgents gained ground in heavy fighting with government troops, the U.N. said.

The clashes to the south of the town Kibumba mean the rebels have advanced to within 30 km (18 miles) of Goma, the closest they have been to North Kivu's provincial capital since a rebellion exploded in the eastern provinces eight months ago.
North Kivu governor Julien Paluku said the army retreated to the southern outskirts of the town after M23 rebels - a group of soldiers who mutinied in April - advanced with support from neighbouring Rwanda. A Congolese government statement claimed 4,000 Rwandans had crossed the border.

M23 is thought to number around 1300 combatants. They by all accounts seem to be well equipped for this offensive. The finger logically must point to Rwanda.

United Nations peacekeeping spokesman said the M23 rebels had taken the town of Kibumba. It lies just 25 kilometres (15 miles) north of Goma, the provincial capital of the strife-torn North Kivu province, which borders Rwanda and Uganda.
The UN force MONUSCO "must stop" attacking areas under rebel control and show its neutrality, spokesman of the M23 rebel movement Lieutenant Colonel Vianney Kazarama told AFP. "If they continue to strafe us we will respond."
The M23 has "never attacked" MONUSCO camps in Kitale and Kiwandja -- areas currently under rebel control -- but the rebels cannot "tolerate (MONUSCO's use) of helicopters (and) tanks against the people," he said.
In New York on Saturday, the 15-nation Security Council went into an emergency session on the crisis.
With M23 rebels less than 20 kilometres (12 miles) from Goma, the main city in the mineral-rich region, UN leader Ban Ki-moon appealed to Rwanda's President Paul Kagame to "use his influence on M23," said UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous.

Now 4 kilometers if what I have heard is correct.

A Rwandan-backed rebel group has advanced to within two miles of Goma, a crucial provincial capital in eastern Congo, the first time rebels have been so close since 2008. The advance came despite the deaths of 151 rebels and two army officers in fighting that culminated in a series of attacks by UN helicopters on rebel positions in eastern Congo on Saturday.

A Congolese army spokesman, Colonel Olivier Hamuli, said the fighting around Goma started at 6am on Saturday. He denied reports that Congolese soldiers were refusing to fight and fleeing.

Contacted by telephone on the frontline, Colonel Vianney Kazarama, spokesman for the M23 rebel group, said his forces were poised to capture the city. "We are about to take the town. We will spend the night in Goma tonight," he said. "We are confident that we can take Goma and then our next step will be to take Bukavu," he added, referring to the capital of the next province to the south.

In four days of battles, the rebels have advanced closer than at any time in their eight-month uprising to Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu and home to the headquarters of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in eastern Congo.
Colonel Vianney Kazarama, spokesman for the M23 rebels, said rebel fighters had advanced to within 2 km (1 mile) of Goma. He said the rebels would hold their position around 5 km outside the city and that fighting had stopped for the day.
"We're not going to take the airport, we are responding to an attack by the army ... We're just doing this to break the capacity of the FARDC (Congolese army)," Kazarama told Reuters.
"The situation remains under control," he said later in a text message.
Earlier, Colonel Olivier Hamuli, a spokesman for the Congolese army, spoke to Reuters briefly by telephone before the line was cut. "There is combat about 5 km from the airport," he said.
The United Nations has about 6,700 peacekeeping forces in North Kivu, with some 1,400 troops in Goma and the surrounding area. The force has a mandate to protect civilians.

Tariq Riebl, humanitarian program co-ordinator for Oxfam aid agency, said residents were trying to evacuate their families from Goma while trucks of Congolese soldiers were seen leaving the city on Sunday.
"People are moving around the city. I do know a lot of people are sending their families out if they have the financial means to do that," Riebl said.
He said thousands of displaced people were also abandoning camps in the north of the city to avoid the advancing rebels.
"The question now is, what does this (fighting) mean? Are M23 going to take Goma, nobody knows," he said.
Thomas D'Aquin Muiti, president of a local non-governmental organisation in North Kivu province, said reassurances from the rebels that they would not enter the city were not to be trusted.
"I think everyone in the town is sceptical of M23 ... the town is emptying ... If the international community allows M23 to take Goma it'll be a humanitarian catastrophe" Muiti said.
Goma, on the Rwandan border, is home to up to a million people, including hundreds of thousands displaced by conflict. M23 rebels have repeatedly said they do not intend to capture the city.

From the frontline.

On this road, I met a young man lost in the middle of the front line separated by the parents when they came to Kisangani in Orientale Province to Goma.

                                A 13 year old who speaks to me in tears

The 13 year old child lost in the middle of nowhere, I put on the bike with me into the camp moved from the previous war before the break.

Woe to the young man, we arrive at the office of the Red Cross camp in the small office is open temporary shelters without anyone inside.

the Gacon ( Boy ) told me to leave him there, he will fend for themselves without any thing to put in their mouths; suddenly I made him a little note of 5OO Congolese franc that I had in my pocket.

This makes me very angry.
Rwanda has denied a report by UN experts that it has backed the rebels. Ladsous said the United Nations could not confirm whether Rwanda is helping the new rebel offensive but told reporters that M23 "attacking forces are well-equipped and very well-supplied."
A council statement demanded an end to the M23 advance and "that any and all outside support and supply of equipment to the M23 cease immediately."
It vowed new sanctions against M23 leaders and those who help it breach UN sanctions and an arms embargo.

Rwanda's election and appointment to the UN Security Council must be overturned. 
The latest fighting has forced more than 7,000 people to flee to the already packed Kanyarucinya displaced persons' camp, some 10 kilometres outside Goma.
And fears were growing that the rebels might try to take Goma itself.
Saturday's fighting was just the latest clash this week between the army and the rebels of the M23 group, composed of ethnic Tutsi army mutineers.
While each side blamed the other for the latest violence, MONUSCO said the M23 had launched an offensive with heavy weapons early Saturday.
As a result, the UN mission had deployed its peacekeepers to protect civilians.
"As part of this, 10 missions were carried out by (MONUSCO) attack helicopters," it said in a statement.
"MONUSCO firmly condemns the renewal of hostilities. It calls on the M23 to immediately halt its attacks, which have caused a deterioration of the already fragile security and humanitarian situation."
The attack helicopters, provided by Ukraine, were put on standby Friday after the M23 attacked the army just north of Goma.
MONUSCO said the latest fighting was taking place about five kilometres from the Kanyarucinya camp, which currently holds between 60,000 and 80,000 displaced people.
The UN peacekeeping spokesman said government forces and MONUSCO peacekeepers "are attempting to hold off a possible M23 advance toward Goma at Kibati," about 20 kilometres to the north.
"As of right now, UN staff in Goma are gathering at security assembly points to ensure their protection," he said, adding that UN forces in the city and its airport are on "high alert".
The clashes are the most serious in the rebellion since July, when UN attack helicopters were last put into action against the M23.
-- Fresh accusations against Rwanda --
UN experts have said Rwanda and Uganda back the rebels, a charge fiercely denied by both countries.
As the fighting flared, the DR Congo government and army levelled fresh accusations Saturday that the M23 were getting help from Rwanda.
DR Congo government spokesman Lambert Mende said the latest fighting erupted when 4,000 men in columns had descended on DR Congo territory from Rwanda.
Olivier Hamuli, a DR Congo army spokesman in North Kivu province, said he visited the front line and saw the M23 was clearly receiving support from Rwanda.
Hamuli said the army would launch a new offensive Sunday morning "to retake Kibumba and advance on the M23's positions wherever they are."
The M23 rebels are former fighters in the Tutsi rebel group the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP).
The CNDP was integrated into the DR Congo military under a 2009 peace deal, but the mutineers say they rebelled because the terms of the deal were never fully implemented.

I guess it is watch this space but the situation is very volatile.

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