M23 rebels walk through the jungle in North Kivu province on July 28, 2012.
Rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo have seized control of the city of Goma and its airport in the resource-rich eastern part of the country.
Meeting with little resistance, the March 23 movement (M23) rebels entered Goma, which is the capital of North Kivu province, on Tuesday after days of fighting with the UN-backed Congolese soldiers.
Vianney Kazarama, spokesman for the rebels, requested the population to stay calm while ordering all police and government soldiers to surrender on Wednesday morning at Goma's football stadium.
Meanwhile, in an address to the nation, Congolese President Joseph Kabila called on the people to fight the rebels.
"DR Congo is today confronted with a difficult situation," the president said on national television. "When a war is imposed, one has an obligation to resist. I ask that the entire population defend our sovereignty."
On November 17, The United Nations said that the M23 rebels captured the town of Kibumba, 25 kilometers north of Goma, despite airstrikes by UN attack helicopters, which were helping the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC).
The M23 rebels defected from the Congolese army in April in protest against alleged mistreatment in the FARDC. They had previously been integrated into the Congolese army under a peace deal signed in 2009.
The mutiny is being led by General Bosco Ntaganda, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on a charge of recruiting child soldiers.
Since early May, over 750,000 people have fled their homes in the eastern Congo. Most of them have resettled inside Congo, but tens of thousands have crossed into neighboring Rwanda and Uganda.