African Leaders Call on DR Congo Rebels to Withdraw

Posted November 24th, 2012 at 12:05 pm (UTC-5)
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A group of African heads of state met Saturday to try to resolve the rebel crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo — and called on the rebels to “stop all war activities” and withdraw from the key city of Goma, which they took over earlier this week.

Saturday's statement also called on the rebels to stop all talk of overthrowing the government.

The presidents of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and the DRC met in Uganda's capital of Kampala, but a key figure was missing — Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who canceled and sent his foreign minister at the last minute.

The United Nations has accused Rwanda of supporting the M23 rebels in the DRC, a charge it denies.

The Kampala summit was held amid concerns of advances by rebels into eastern Congo and a shakeup in the Congolese army.

DRC President Joseph Kabila suspended the head of the army after the general was accused of selling weapons to armed groups in the east. The suspension of Major General Gabriel Amisi came three days after rebel group M23 defeated Congolese forces and captured the eastern city of Goma.

A U.N. report released late Wednesday said Amisi runs an arms smuggling network that supplies eastern Congolese rebel and militia groups.

M23 and the Congolese army continue to fight over the town of Sake, west of Goma. The rebels took the town Friday for the second time this week after the army regained control Thursday.

VOA's correspondent in eastern Congo reports seeing the bodies of seven Congolese soldiers on a road in Sake. He says most residents of Sake have fled the town, and that fighting may next move to the town of Minova, farther to the west.

The rebels have rejected a call from Mr. Kabila and the presidents of Rwanda and Uganda to withdraw from Goma and stop their offensive.

The DRC has accused both Rwanda and Uganda of supporting M23 – something both countries strongly deny.

M23 takes its name from a March 23, 2009 peace deal that was meant to bring former rebels into the Congolese army. The rebels left the army early this year after complaining of discrimination and poor treatment.

The DRC government has tried for years with little success to pacify the east, where armed groups compete for control of the region's mineral wealth.