Rebel fighters in the DR Congo enter Goma, threatening wider conflict
After days of pushing back UN peacekeepers to close in on the eastern city of Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a rebel group called M23 is threatening to destabilize the region.
• A daily summary of global reports on security issues.Skip to next paragraph
Latin America Editor
Whitney Eulich is the Monitor's Latin America editor, overseeing regional coverage for CSMonitor.com and the weekly magazine. She also curates the Latin America Monitor Blog.
In Pictures Africa's Hot Spots
Russia puts security stranglehold on Crimea as referendum nears (+video)
Taliban tell Afghan voters to stay home ahead of presidential election
Malaysia Airlines plane missing: Stolen passports raise suspicions of terrorism (+video)
EU gets tougher on Russia, but is Germany putting brakes on stronger sanctions?
NATO airstrike that kills Afghan soldiers deals fresh blow to ties
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
A rebel group in the Democratic Republic of Congo seized strategic parts of the eastern, mineral-rich city of Goma today, and is reportedly moving south toward Bukavu, threatening to immerse one of Africa’s largest countries in a new conflict and destabilize the region.
Explosions and machine-gun fire rocked the lakeside city as the M23 rebels pushed forward on two fronts: toward the city center and along the road that leads to Bukavu, another provincial capital, which lies to the south.
Civilians ran down sidewalks and roads looking for cover and children shouted in alarm as gunfire crackled in the distance. A man clutched a thermos as he ran. A white tank with UN emblazoned on its side rolled down a Goma street, passing a Congolese army tank.
The U.N. peacekeepers, known by their acronym MONUSCO, were not helping the government forces during Tuesday's battle because they do not have a mandate to engage the rebels, said Congolese military spokesman Olivier Hamuli, who was frustrated over the lack of action by the peacekeeepers.
"MONUSCO is keeping its defensive positions. They do not have the mandate to fight the M23. Unfortunately, the M23 did not obey the MONUSCO warnings and went past their positions [at the airport]. We ask that the MONUSCO do more," he said.
"There is no Army left in the town, not a soul ... once they were in the town what could we do? It could have been very serious for the population," the Reuters source said, asking not to be named. Residents were ordered to evacuate, and refugee camps in the area were abandoned, Reuters reports.
"Despite the attack helicopters, despite the heavy weapons, the FARDC (Congo national Army) has let the town fall into our hands," Col. Vianney Kazarama, a spokesman for M23, told Reuters by telephone.
The Goma airport is a lifeline for the many aid organizations based there, as well as businesses. The Congolese Army has denied claims that M23 rebels have taken over the airport, which sits across the street from the UN headquarters, reports The Daily Telegraph. “[T]here are fears that if Goma falls, rebel footsoldiers will go on a rampage of looting and rape, particularly if the UN continues to appear ineffective.”