GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo (Reuters) – Hundreds of rebel fighters, singing and brandishing weapons, pulled out of Congo’s eastern border city of Goma yesterday, raising hopes for negotiations to end the insurgency.
The withdrawal of the M23 rebel movement from Goma on Lake Kivu, a strategic hub in Democratic Republic of Congo’s war-scarred east, was agreed in a deal brokered by presidents of the Great Lakes states under Uganda’s leadership a week ago.
“M23 has been leaving Goma. By noon today, 750 M23 elements left Goma … by close of business today they should have all left,” Hiroute Guebre Sellassie, North Kivu office head for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo (MONUSCO) told Reuters.
Goma’s fall on Nov. 20 to the Tutsi-led M23 insurgent group, which routed United Nations-backed government forces, triggered a diplomatic scramble to prevent a wider escalation of the eight-month-old rebellion in the conflict-prone region.
The rebels had said they would fight to topple Congo’s President Joseph Kabila and march on the capital Kinshasa, 1,600 km (1,000 miles) to the west. UN experts accuse Rwanda and Uganda of supporting the revolt, a charge both strongly deny.
In the centre of Goma, blue-helmeted UN peacekeepers from Uruguay in white armoured vehicles watched as camouflage-clad M23 fighters scrambled on to the back of flatbed trucks with battered suitcases and other belongings before driving off.