Congo rebels say will withdraw from Goma

Tue Nov 27, 2012 3:19pm EST
 
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By Richard Lough and Jonny Hogg

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo (Reuters) - Rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo said on Tuesday they would pull out of the eastern city of Goma in an apparent stalling of their drive to "liberate" the whole country.

However, the situation on the ground remained far from clear after the rebels' political and military leaders gave conflicting statements over their intentions.

The eight-month insurgency has threatened to develop into an all-out war in a region dogged by nearly two decades of conflict that has killed more than 5 million people and is fuelled by competition over mineral resources.

The Ugandan military, which has coordinated talks with the M23 rebels, said earlier that M23 leader Colonel Sultani Makenga had agreed to a plan drawn up by regional heads of state for the rebels to leave Goma within 48 hours, with no conditions.

But the political head of M23, Jean-Marie Runiga, later told journalists in Goma they would withdraw from the city only if President Joseph Kabila agreed to their demands. The Congolese government dismissed the chances of this happening.

"There's no division, General Makenga has said that we'll withdraw, so that's what we're in the process of doing," deputy M23 spokesman Amani Kabasha told Reuters by telephone.

"If we withdraw the force, everyone leaves ... It's not contradictory (to Runiga's statement). He said we were prepared to withdraw from the town but that Kabila must listen to us."

Kabasha said the entire movement would head 20 km towards the town of Kibumba, directly north of the city.   Continued...

 
Leader of the March 23 Movement (M23) Jean-Marie Runiga addresses the media in Goma November 27, 2012. Rebels in Democratic Republic of Congo said on Tuesday they would withdraw from the eastern city of Goma if President Joseph Kabila agreed to their demands, which the Congolese government was quick to dismiss as a farce. REUTERS/James Akena