The governor of North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) says that March 23 (M23) movement rebels are trying to terrorize the people of the provincial capital Goma. "The M23 wants to keep the population of Goma on edge to put pressure on Kampala" in Uganda, where delegates from the Congolese government and the M23 rebel group are negotiating, AFP quoted Julien Paluku as saying on Monday. Paluku noted that the rebels were maintaining "pressure to show that at any moment, if this or that isn't done in Kampala, they will take Goma."
On Monday, the spokesperson for the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), Kieran Dwyer, said that UN peacekeepers in the DRC had received reports of M23 rebels moving into some positions around Goma.Paluku also said that inmates of Goma's prison who escaped during the chaos last month had become a major security threat. "We face two main challenges: the more than 1,170 inmates -- including more than 700 soldiers -- who escaped from prison during the capture of Goma, and disguised M23 members who want to make life unbearable to show that the city is badly governed," the governor said. There have been reports that many Goma residents are leaving the city and heading toward Bukavu, the capital of South Kivu province. However, Paluku has denied the reports. The rebels seized Goma on November 20 after UN peacekeepers gave up the battle for the frontier city of one million people. The rebels withdrew from the city on December 1 under a ceasefire accord. The M23 rebels defected from the Congolese army in April in protest over alleged mistreatment in the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC). They had previously been integrated into the Congolese army under a peace deal signed in 2009. Since early May, over 900,000 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. Congo has faced numerous problems over the past few decades, such as grinding poverty, crumbling infrastructure, and a war in the east of the country that has dragged on for over a decade and left over 5.5 million people dead. MN/HGL