The Congo on Edge
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|Bernard Banks||November 21st 2012|
from VOA and agencies
Rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo have vowed to seize more territory and topple President Joseph Kabila. The M23 rebels held a rally Wednesday at a stadium in the eastern city of Goma, which they captured a day earlier. Rebel spokesman Vianny Kazarama said the rebels plan to keep on moving. "President Kabila brought war planes and big guns, but he was unable to defeat us," he said. "That is a clear sign that we are part of God's plan; we were sent by God and this will not end here," said Kazarama.
Hundreds of Congolese police and troops surrendered their weapons at the rally.
Kazarama said the rebels' next goal is Bukavu, 100 kilometers to the south. He said the group already controls the town of Sake, also south of Goma, and plans to eventually reach Kinshasa, the capital, more than 1,500 kilometers to the west.
The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Tuesday to impose sanctions against M23 leaders. The French-sponsored resolution demands that the rebels immediately pull out of Goma, located on the Rwandan border, and condemns all foreign support for the group. The DRC and U.N. experts accuse Rwanda of supporting M23 - a charge Rwanda denies. Kabila and Rwandan President Paul Kagame met late Tuesday and again Wednesday in Uganda's capital, Kampala. Congolese leaders have refused to hold direct talks with the rebels unless Rwanda is included.
On Tuesday, M23 fighters seized Goma with no resistance, after Congolese troops fled and 1,500 U.N. peacekeepers stood by. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Tuesday it is "absurd" that there are 17,000 peacekeepers in all of Congo and they could not stop several hundred men. He called for a review of the peacekeepers' mandate. The U.N. says about one million people are in Goma, many of them displaced from other areas by earlier fighting between the army and M23. The city is the capital of mineral-rich North Kivu province, where the government and U.N. peacekeepers have tried to subdue local rebel and militia groups for years.