Washington urges Rwanda to encourage DR Congo rebels’ retreat from Goma

WASHINGTON — The United States Tuesday condemned Congolese rebels’ takeover of the key eastern city of Goma and urged Rwanda, which it suspects of backing them, to encourage them to pull back.

“We condemn the ongoing violent assault of M23 and the fact that it’s now taken Goma in violation of the sovereignty of the DRC,” said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, referring to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In the DR Congo, locals cheered and applauded two vehicles full of rebels as they drove around Goma’s city center after fighters of the M23 movement marched into the city facing little resistance.

Witnesses reported that rebel chief Sultani Makenga had arrived in the capital of mineral-rich North Kivu province, capping a week-long advance by the M23.

The rebels have been blamed for hundreds of deaths since they launched their uprising in April. UN experts have accused neighboring Rwanda and Uganda of backing the M23, a charge both countries deny.

The UN has around 1,500 “quick reaction” peacekeepers in Goma, part of some 6,700 troops in North Kivu province, backing government forces against the rebels.

Nuland said the United States was working on the situation at UN headquarters in New York.

“We are working, as you know, in New York today on a UN Security Council resolution that would also call for an immediate ceasefire, that would call for a pullback of M23 forces to their July lines,” she said.

The M23, formed by former members of an ethnic Tutsi rebel group, mutinied in April after the failure of a 2009 peace deal that integrated them into the regular army.