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Africa

Goma reported calm as M23 rebels claim capture

M23 rebels have claimed control of Goma in the eastern DRC. Kinshasa accuses Rwanda and Uganda of orchestrating the insurgency with a view to grabbing the region's mineral wealth, a charge both countries deny.

A United Nations (U.N.) peacekeepers' armoured vehicle drives past M23 rebels patrolling a street in Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) REUTERS/James Akena (DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC CONGO - Tags: CIVIL UNREST POLITICS MILITARY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Congolese Revolution Army (CRA)

DW: What is the security situation like in Goma right now?

Jack Kahorla: The situation is quiet, but since the morning we have been hearing some heavy weapons, guns all around the town. At 1 pm, it was announced that the rebels have entered the center of town. Some people who were in the town said they saw them heading to the border, then they went to the airport and the radio station. After that the clashes continued. All the tanks that had been used by the FARDC, the government army, were taken to Minova, 50 kilometers to the west of Goma. In the meantime, the military spokesman of the rebels has asked the people to stay calm and remain at home. He said they were going to deal with security in the whole of the town, they are going to clear some small pockets of insecurity in the town. The rebels also invited FARDC soldiers to join them in town tomorrow (Wednesday) at eight o'clock at the stadium so they can be briefed about how they can work together. They also gave them contact details so they could be called if anything went wrong.

There are conflicting reports about who controls the airport. What can you tell us about who is in charge of the airport?

The rebels said that, for the moment, the airport is under the control of MONUSCO (United Nations Stabilization Mission in the DR Congo). According to the rebels, they didn't want to have control of the air forces, there are also many staff belonging to the UN and the MONUSCO there and they say it is important that the airport be kept by MONUSCO. The rebels control the area around the airport, but the airport itself is controlled by MONUSCO

What have people whom you have met or spoken to been telling you about the situation ?

All people in Goma are very disappointed with the government, because, as you know, these clashes started in April and the authorities in the DRC have been saying they were going keep people safe. Right up to the last minute, the local radio station was broadcasting a message from the governor saying everything was still under control. People were extremely disappointed to see that this was not true and that the authorities were not able to look after their security and that the Kinshasa government had neglected such a rebellion. Some people suspect that maybe there is a connection between the rebels and the government in Kinshasa. People are saying they have been sold out by the government.

Rebels fleeing near Goma airport. Photo:Melanie Gouby/AP/dapd).

People flee as fighting erupts between the M23 rebels and Congolese army near the airport at Goma

The Congolese government troops are backed by the UN troops, MONUSCO, which gives them an edge over the rebels. Are there signs that they intend to regain control of Goma town?

It will not be easy. This is a strategic place for the rebels which they have been dreaming about for years. They cannot leave it. They are going to focus all their attention on this town. This would be an opportunity to generate income. When they have taken Goma, they have money they collect as taxes and this will give them the strength to organize themselves, to pay themselves, and also enable them to organize fighting outside Goma. It's a good step for them and I don't think the government can take this town from them.

There have also been reports of troops defecting to the M23 rebels. How credible are these reports and why would government troops defect?

They knew already what was going to happen. There are some people who are well connected. It is true that there are some people who have defected from the government, but there are other people who have defected from the rebels. But those people from the government who defected to M23, they were promised that, if power was taken, they would occupy a good position in the army or in the new government. But on the rebel side, people defected because they didn't believe that Goma could ever be taken.

Where are the UN troops and what are they doing now ?

The UN troops are at the airport. For about a month they had their tanks in town on patrol, but since yesterday (Monday) they were obliged to bring all their tanks to the airport so that's where they are for the moment.

Jack Kahorla is a journalist based in eastern DRC.

Interview: Isaac Mugabi

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