Hundreds of government soldiers and police in the Democratic Republic of Congo have surrendered to rebels at a stadium in Goma, the main city in the eastern North Kivu province.
Al Jazeera’s Nazanine Moshiri reported on “extraordinary scenes”, as thousands of security officers came to hand in their arms on Wednesday.
“[The surrendered officers] didn’t have a choice,” she said. They were told “they had a choice either to have peace in the city, or to leave the city”.
The M23 rebel group, believed to be backed by Rwanda, seized Goma on Tuesday, in a development that raised fears of a new, regional conflict. The capture of the city came after days of fighting with government troops.
The rebels were also reported to have taken control of the town of Sake, on the road to Bukavu.
“The [rebels] arrived an hour ago. Luckily there was no force used. Now they’re pretty much everywhere … The army had already left,” Christian Bigebika, executive secretary of an association of local rights groups, told the Reuters news agency by telephone from the town, between Goma and Bukavu.
Plans to ‘liberate’
Rebel forces in eastern DR Congo said on Wednesday they planned to take control of the whole of the vast central African country after they captured Goma – home to more than 1 million people – as well as an international airport while United Nations peacekeepers looked on.
Our correspondent said people appeared to be frustrated with what they see as the UN’s lack of action in protecting them from rebel groups.
According to a UN official, protesters were throwing stones and burning tires at the premises MONUSCO, as the peacekeeping force is know, in at least three cities on Wednesday. Peacekeepers were on alert and UN staff were re-grouping at secure locations as a precautionary measure, the spokesman said.
A spokesperson for the M23 rebels said they planned to “liberate” the country, by moving to the town of Bukavu and then marching on the capital, Kinshasa, nearly 1,600km away.
The rebels have previously said they were seeking talks with DRC President Joseph Kabila over the failed implementation of a peace deal that ended a previous rebellion in 2009.
“The journey to liberate Congo has started now … We’re going to move on to Bukavu and then to Kinshasa. Are you ready to join us?” Vianney Kazarama, spokesperson for M23, told the crowd of more than 1,000 in a stadium in Goma. READ MORE…
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