GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo -- The city awoke to artillery and mortar fire today as rebels with the March 23 Movement, or M23, pushed into the outskirts of town, taking control of North Kivu province's main airport, a strategic point, around 11:30 this morning. Main streets in town were deserted, and local radio stations stopped broadcasting and only played music. Residents who had not fled as the rebels approached mostly sought refuge inside their homes. Along some side streets, women offered drinking water to the rows of government troops who trudged through on patrol, and young men helped soldiers carry their heavy weapons. Elsewhere, however, reports emerged of soldiers taking advantage of the chaos, looting shops and robbing people along the road.
In advance of today's attack, a large reinforcement of government soldiers, the FARDC, had come to Goma from Bukavu, the capital of South Kivu province. These reinforcements engaged with the M23 elements that had infiltrated the city ahead of the full rebel advance. Nevertheless, the bolstered FARDC ranks buckled under the onslaught from the M23 fighters, who were reportedly supported by an estimated 3,000 Rwandan soldiers who crossed into the border village of Kibumba from the Bigogwe military camp in Gisenyi, Rwanda. Attack helicopters commanded by U.N. peacekeepers engaged rebel targets on Saturday but failed to deter the rebel's advance.
An FARDC captain on the frontlines admitted in a phone call with Enough on Thursday that, despite some successful operations against the M23 on that day, morale was low and that their likely defeat would be in part due to "lack of food, ammunition, and troop rotation." Frustrated by what they saw as a lack of support for the army under siege, military families in Goma took to the streets burning tires and throwing stones at MONUSCO patrols. An unknown number of U.N. peacekeepers have ...[view whole blog post ]