DR Congo rebels start pullout from frontline positions

AFP, GOMA, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Fri, Nov 30, 2012 - Page 6

Rebel fighters in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo) yesterday said they were moving out of frontline positions, in line with a deal aimed at halting the deadly unrest in the volatile resource-rich area.

The M23 rebels could be seen pulling back equipment from the areas that they seized last week in a lightning advance that prompted international condemnation and calls for withdrawal.

“We have gathered our troops and will move towards Sake,” said M23 Colonel Antoine Manzi, a senior commander of the army mutineers, referring to a town about 20km west of the key regional capital of Goma, which the insurgents have agreed to leave by today.

“We will start leaving Goma tomorrow ... we cannot leave Goma before we have left the other areas,” he said, adding that he expected the M23 would hand over control to UN peacekeepers there.

Residents have reported seeing dozens of trucks carrying food and ammunition trundling through the lush green and rolling hills on the shores of Lake Kivu toward Goma, pulling back past the wreckage of last week’s fighting.

Ugandan army chief Aronda Nyakairima said earlier this week a deal had been struck with the rebels to pull out of the lakeshore city by yesterday, although M23 military leader Sultani Makenga said the deadline was today.

Under the deal struck in Uganda between rebels and regional military commanders — who are due to visit Goma today to monitor progress of the promised withdrawal — a company of 100 M23 gunmen will stay at Goma’s airport.

Although no major moves have been reported yet out of Goma, Makenga has said he will withdraw just 20km from the city, the main settlement in the flashpoint Kivu region.