3 September 2013
Congo police secure rebel territory, 'national dialogue' delayed
The governor of the mineral-rich but chronically unstable province of North Kivu said police had been sent into areas recently abandoned by the rebels in the face of a week-long offensive by the military and a new United Nations combat force.
Governor Julien Paluku told AFP police had mostly reestablished their control over a territory known as Nyiragongo, located north of Goma, the provincial capital and the hub around which most of the 16-month conflict has revolved.
"The police have redeployed since yesterday in Nyiragongo, but not over the whole territory because there is still a small part that hasn't been cleared, where we still need to mop up," Paluku said.
"Police units will be deployed like this every time the military goes to reoccupy a place. They will be deployed to lock down the area."
The M23 was launched by Tutsi soldiers who mutinied from the army in April 2012 and turned their guns on their former comrades.
The rebels, who seized Goma for 12 days in November before withdrawing to the surrounding hills under international pressure, retreated this week to around 30 kilometres (20 miles) north of the city in the face of the army's new UN-backed offensive.
As the police moved in to resecure the ex-rebel territory, the Congolese government postponed by three days a "national dialogue" that had been scheduled to open Wednesday.
The nationwide talks, which are supposed to involve the country's political parties and civil society groups, will now open on Saturday in three major cities, said an official from the secretariat charged with organising the process.
"The opening of the talks has been pushed back to September 7 because of the head of state's agenda," said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The official said President Joseph Kabila had to open a meeting of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region.
Kabila is due to attend a summit of the 11-country regional bloc Thursday in Uganda, where UN special envoy Mary Robinson is expected to push leaders to revive their moribund effort to restore peace to eastern DR Congo.
Kabila has promised the national dialogue in an effort to tackle the massive central African country's deep poverty, rampant corruption and widespread violence and rebellions.
But most opposition parties have said they will boycott the talks.
U.N. envoy says military success an opportunity for Congo talks3 September 2013
Pete Jones 15 hours ago
By Pete Jones
GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo (Reuters) - The U.N. special envoy for Africa's Great Lakes region said on Monday recent military successes by Congo's army against eastern rebels should be used to relaunch peace talks.
Democratic Republic of Congo's army drove M23 rebels from positions overlooking the eastern city of Goma on Friday, scoring its biggest victory since the uprising began 18 months ago.
"When there is a military victory like this, it is a chance to advance with a political solution, and that is better for a durable peace," said envoy Mary Robinson, a former Irish prime minister, without going into further details.
The military breakthrough came after a new U.N. intervention brigade, with a tough mandate to crush armed groups, entered combat for the first time. U.N. artillery and helicopters pounded M23 positions in Kabati, 11 km north of Goma, until rebels withdrew.
Millions of people have died from violence, disease and hunger since the 1990s as foreign-backed ethnic rebel groups have fought for control of eastern Congo's rich deposits of gold, diamonds and tin, destabilising the Great Lakes region.
Congo opened peace talks in Kampala, the capital of neighbouring Uganda, after the rebels briefly seized Goma in late 2012, but the negotiations quickly stalled.
"This time it must be different. At the international level we are engaged more than ever before," Robinson said.
She is visiting the vast, former Belgian colony as part of an international mission including the United States special envoy for the Great Lakes region, Russ Feingold, and the special representative of the African Union, Boubacar Diarra.
Regional leaders will meet in Kampala on Thursday to discuss Congo, with world powers increasing pressure for a solution.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited the region in May, offering $1 billion in World Bank funding if nations stuck to a February deal not to support rebels on each others' soil.
Robinson noted there was evidence that the Tutsi-dominated government in neighbouring Rwanda was supporting M23, whose leaders come from the same ethnic group. In 2012, U.N. investigators accused Rwanda of backing the rebels, a charge Rwanda has denied.
"There is a strong perception (Rwanda is supporting M23), there seems to be some evidence for that," said Robinson. "This is having an impact on how donor countries perceive the situation."
M23 took up arms accusing Congo's government of failing to honour the terms of a 2009 peace deal that ended four years of Tutsi rebellion in the east. It accuses Kinshasa of backing Hutu militia linked to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
Robinson said she supported the military action by the Congolese army and the new 3,000-strong U.N. Brigade, which intervened directly for the first time on August 23 after rebel shells landed in Goma, killing at least three civilians.
"Sometimes a military engagement is necessary to protect the population," she said in Goma, a lakeside city of one million on Congo's border with Rwanda.
During nearly two weeks of fighting, rockets have also landed in Rwanda, killing civilians.
The government in Kigali warned it would not tolerate such "provocation", raising fears it could intervene directly in eastern Congo - where it has fought two wars in the last two decades under the pretext of hunting down Hutu militia.
Congolese army spokesman Lt Colonel Olivier Hamuli said on Monday the front had been calm for the past two days.
"We must consolidate our positions," he said.
Congo-Kinshasa: Uganda Convenes Meeting to Discuss Congo Crisis
Last week witnessed fierce fighting between the M23 rebels and the DRC army supported by a UN brigade mandated to use force.
The United Nations and the DRC accuse Rwanda of supporting the M23 rebels. Rwanda denies the charge, saying lawless eastern Congo is used as a haven for rebels fighting the Kigali government.
- DR Congo - M23 rebels - Rwanda
M23 rebels 'withdraw' from DR Congo frontline
M23 rebels in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo declared a ceasefire Friday after days of clashes with UN-backed forces. Their retreat comes as Rwanda, accused of supporting the rebels, reportedly moved troops towards the Congo-Rwanda border.
Bertrand Bisimwa, the civilian president of M23, told Al Jazeera on Friday that his troops were withdrawing in order to allow what he called independent verifiers to enter the area of the battle to assess where shells had fallen in the nearby city of Goma and across the border in Rwanda.
He denied that his troops were withdrawing because of battlefield casualties, an assertion that the government made.
Bisimwa did not clarify how far back the M23 would be withdrawing, Al Jazeera's Malcom Webb reported from the eastern city of Goma.
The withdrawal comes a day after a UN peacekeeper was killed and another seven wounded in fighting between the M23 and UN-assisted Congolese forces.
The fighting was some of the fiercest in the week since the newly created UN intervention brigade went on the offensive, and one Tanzanian peacekeeper was killed after the rebels aimed artillery fire at their position, the UN said in a statement.
The UN said on Thursday that it had also established that there were "consistent and credible reports" of Rwandan troops entering the Democratic Republic of Congo to back the M23 rebels.
Rwanda has consistently denied supporting the rebels. It accused its Central African neighbour of persistently shelling into its territory and said such "provocation" could no longer be tolerated.
Deputy UN peacekeeping chief Edmond Mulet briefed the UN Security Council on the situation and said that the UN mission in Congo - known as MONUSCO - had seen only the M23 rebels shelling into Rwanda, according to Deputy French Ambassador Alexis Lamek.
Following Thursday's fighting near the Kibati village, about 15km from provincial capital Goma, the rebels said that they remained committed to finding a peaceful solution to the conflict.
Rene Abandi, the head of the M23's Kampala delegation, said the group was ready for a unilateral ceasefire once Kinshasa laid down its weapons.
"[There are] those innocent people who are dying while our side is here for peace talks, and all the while the other side is refusing. The other side who is not here is the only responsible of all those deaths. The only thing we are tired with, is to declare unilateral ceasefire and to see the other side continuing to bomb and to attack. But at any hour of day or night, if the government accepts, we are ready for a bilateral ceasefire," Abandi added.
The rebels also blamed recent deaths in Goma on the Congolese government and the UN.
The UN involvement in the latest flare-up of violence is in sharp contrast to November, when the UN peacekeeping mission stood by as the rebels overtook Goma because their mandate was only to protect civilians.
The stepped-up 3,000-strong UN intervention brigade, created by the Security Council in March, is authorised to take the offensive against the rebels.
Even as forces hit rebel positions, UN officials continued to send mixed messages about the extent of their involvement, repeatedly saying they were merely "backing" or "supporting" the Congolese military, rather than leading the offensive themselves.
"The main engagement is by the [Congolese] forces,'' said Siphiwe Dlamini, a spokesman for the South African military, which contributed troops to the brigade. "We are retaliating and going on the offensive."
Lt-Col Felix Basse, the military spokesman for the UN peacekeeping mission, also emphasised that UN forces were fighting alongside the Congolese army.
The M23 fighters launched their rebellion last year and peace talks with the Congolese government have repeatedly stalled.
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Rwandan official hints troops could enter Congo
Updated 4:46 am, Friday, August 30, 2013
DR Congo: M23 rebels threaten to march on Kinshasa
Published on Nov 18, 2012
Large numbers are escaping as rebel M23 fighters advance on the city. United Nations helicopters have fired on the group amid some of the most serious fighting in the area since July. Al Jazeera's Nazanine Moshiri reports.
Source, credit to Aljazeera- http://www.aljazeera.com/video
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