GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo -- Residents settled into an uneasy calm today "under our new masters," a day after mutineers from the Congolese army, now leaders of the M23 military wing, forced government troops, or FARDC, out of the city and took control of the lucrative border crossing between Congo and Rwanda. While over a thousand people flocked to Goma stadium to hear from the M23 leaders about their plans, Congolese President Joseph Kabila, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni held emergency meetings in the Ugandan capital aimed at stemming the widening crisis.
"The journey to liberate Congo has started now," M23 spokesman Vianney Kazarama told the crowd gathered at the rally. "We're going to move on to Bukavu and then to Kinshasa. Are you ready to join us?" The rebels claimed that they are now in control of Sake, a town 17 miles northwest of Goma on the road toward Bukavu, another key town in eastern Congo and the capital of South Kivu province.
The high-level talks in Kampala have resulted in two interesting twists. First, President Museveni said that he is asking M23 to withdraw from Goma and not to advance further into Congo. Second, President Kabila agreed that he would meet M23 to examine their grievances. Several more key steps must be taken, but these statements were positive steps that could help lay the groundwork for a more comprehensive peace process.
Furthermore, foreign ministers from across Africa's Great Lakes region today reiterated their call for African countries to contribute troops to an international force to militarily take on the M23 rebels. "The meeting called on the African Union's Peace and Security Council to mandate the neutral international force and seek the support of the United Nations Security Council to deploy the neutral force," [view whole blog post ]