“The rebels arrived an hour ago. Luckily there was no force used. Now they’re pretty much everywhere. The army has already left,” said Christian Bigebika the executive secretary of an association of local rights groups.
The M23 rebel publicist, Lt Col Vianney Kazarama said, “We will march to Kinshasa, and liberate the country,” while addressing a crowd shortly after taking control of Goma on Tuesday.
As explosions rang out in the lakeside city of Goma, civilians ran down sidewalks looking for cover as thousands of residents fled across the border to Rwanda.
Meanwhile, DR Congo’s President Joseph Kabila is in Kampala to hold crisis talks with his Rwanda and Ugandan counterparts. President Kabila arrived in Kampala on Tuesday afternoon, hours after Goma had fallen to the rebels.
Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame arrived hours later on Tuesday evening at Entebbe airport to attend the emergency meeting with Kabila and Museveni.
President Museveni is expected to mediate the meeting which he has been calling for between Kabila and Kagame over the past months.
The actions of the M23 rebels have prompted the US government to impose financial sanctions on Sultani Makenga one of the leaders of the M23 rebels.
The United Nations peacekeepers, known by their acronym MONUSCO, were not helping the government forces during Tuesday’s battle because they do not have a mandate to engage the rebels, said Congolese military spokesman Olivier Hamuli, who expressed frustration over the lack of action by the peacekeepers.
A UN spokesman said in New York said that the nearly 1,500 UN peacekeepers in Goma held their fire to avoid triggering a battle. “The peacekeepers cannot substitute for the efforts of national forces in Congo,” said spokesman Eduardo del Buey.
On Wednesday the Security Council will review the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force in Congo. A resolution adopted Tuesday by the Security Council asks the UN secretary-general to recommend possible redeployment, and possible “additional force multipliers.”
The resolution approved unanimously by the council imposes targeted sanctions, including a travel ban and assets freeze on the M23 rebel group leadership. But it did not name two countries accused by Congo of supporting the rebels: Rwanda and Uganda.
The council demanded that the M23 rebels withdraw from Goma, disarm and disband, and insisted on the restoration of the crumbing Congolese government authority in the country’s turbulent East.
The resolution also calls for an immediate end to external support to the rebels and asks the UN secretary-general to report on the allegations of foreign support while expressing its readiness to take appropriate measures.
The rebels are believed to be backed by Rwanda, and to a smaller extent by Uganda, which are accused of equipping them with sophisticated arms, including night vision goggles and 120 mm mortars.
Evidence is mounting of the involvement by Rwanda and Uganda, and on Friday, the United Nations Group of Experts is expected to release its final report, detailing the role the neighboring nations played in the recruitment, financing and arming of the rebel movement, which was born in April.
In the meantime, the M23 rebels have advanced towards Bukavu after taking Sake and encouraged by the continuous addition to their numbers as more troops surrender to join the rebels.