Gunmen attack DR Congo camp as forces take over Goma

December 03, 2012 - 6:40:15 am

MUGUNGA CAMP: Autho-rities in Democratic Republic of Congo’s eastern city of Goma assumed gradual control of the mining hub yesterday after a rebel pullout, but tensions were running high with gunmen attacking a nearby camp for displaced people.

UN refugee agency officials reported cases of looting and rape in the attack late on Saturday on the giant Mugunga camp, which lies about 10km west of Goma and is home to up to 35,000 displaced people. 

The attack came hours after the withdrawal of M23 rebel fighters in line with a regionally brokered deal to end their occupation of Goma which had stoked fears about stability in the war-blighted area that borders Rwanda and Uganda.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” government spokesman Lambert Mende said of the withdrawal, adding that President Joseph Kabila would soon start “listening to the grievances” of the mainly Tutsi rebels as part of peace negotiations.

Security remains fluid following the M23’s 12-day occupation of Goma, despite over 160 police reinforcements arriving by boat at the lake port to beef up some 300 colleagues who arrived Saturday.

Alongside United Nations peacekeepers, a few police patrols were seen on the streets of Goma, a city of around one million people that is the hub of the resource-rich area. Some 600 government soldiers are also reported to be on their way to Goma.

The UN-backed Radio Okapi — a key source of independent news, broadcasting in French and four local languages — has also been jammed since Saturday, officials said, after it aired an interview with M23 political leader Jean-Marie Runiga. Its jamming is “troubling and regrettable”, head of UN mission in DR Congo Roger Meece said in a statement.