Congo rebels quit Goma, saying it's "for peace"

Sat Dec 1, 2012 7:37pm EST
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By Ed Stoddard and Kenny Katombe

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo (Reuters) - Hundreds of rebel fighters, singing and brandishing weapons, pulled out of Congo's eastern border city of Goma on Saturday, 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.

Kieran Dwyer, spokesman for the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations in New York, said the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo, or MONUSCO, confirmed the pullout was completed.

"The M23 has today withdrawn from Goma city in eastern DR Congo," he said in a statement. "MONUSCO mobilized 17 rapid reaction units in the city throughout the day to monitor the M23 withdrawal which took place in a largely orderly manner."

"MONUSCO troops secured key installations including the Central Bank, Governor's House and communications infrastructure at Goma Hill," Dwyer said.

Goma's fall on November 20 to the Tutsi-led M23 insurgent group, which routed U.N.-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. U.N. experts accuse Rwanda and Uganda of supporting the revolt, a charge both strongly deny.

In the centre of Goma, blue-helmeted U.N. peacekeepers from Uruguay in white armored vehicles watched as camouflage-clad M23 fighters scrambled on to the back of flatbed trucks with battered suitcases and other belongings before driving off.   Continued...

M-23 rebel fighters are transported on trucks as they withdraw from Goma December 1, 2012. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic