U.N. chief suggests Congo rebels had outside help to take Goma

Tue Feb 19, 2013 1:28pm EST
 

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The command, equipment quality and fighting ability of rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo when they captured the frontier city of Goma in November suggests they had external support, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday.

While Ban did not say from where the external support came to help the M23 rebels take Goma on November 20, U.N. experts have accused Rwanda and Uganda of aiding the revolt in the resource-rich region. Both governments strongly deny any involvement.

In a three-month report on the U.N. peacekeeping force in Congo, known as MONUSCO, Ban said the M23 rebels had shown uncharacteristic capacities during the offensive to take Goma. The rebels eventually withdrew from the city 11 days later.

"The subsequent speed, efficiency and success of the M23's renewed offensive were rendered possible by a sudden increase in the group's combatants, coordinated multi-pronged attacks, and attacks with coordination between infantry and fire support," Ban said in the February 15 report released on Tuesday.

M23 began taking parts of eastern Congo early last year, accusing the government of failing to honor a 2009 peace deal. That deal ended a previous rebellion and led to the rebels' integration into the army. They have since deserted the army.

"MONUSCO's observations of the command and control ability of the attacking force, the effective coordination of its fire support, the quality of its equipment and its general fighting ability, particularly during night time, all suggested the existence of external support, direct and indirect," Ban said.

At the time of the advance on Goma, U.N. officials said they were surprised by the increased strength of the rebels but appeared reluctant to officially blame it on outside support.

Despite Rwanda's strong denials, the U.N. Security Council's Group of Experts, which monitors compliance with sanctions and an arms embargo on the Congo, said in a report late last year that Rwanda's defense minister was commanding the M23 revolt and Kigali was arming the rebels and sending troops.   Continued...

 
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon waves during a visit to the Heal Africa hospital in Goma, eastern Congo, February 28, 2009. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly