Congo Rebels Retreat from Goma

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Congolese rebels M23 were forced to retreat from their rapid advance on Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu, Congo, on Monday according to the Associated Press . The rebel group had come within two miles of Goma, which serves as a base for United Nations operations in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and also has an international airport.

M23 withdrew to the village of Kibumba 18 miles away and issued demands that include the demilitarization of the city and the formal announcement of negotiations by the government.

Here's the latest information on the rebellion.

Group allegedly backed by Rwanda

Another AP report filed on Monday noted that the rebels were believed to be backed by Rwanda, DRC's much smaller but densely populated neighbor to the east.

Rebel spokesman Col. Vianney Kazarama said that though they had retreated, M23 still intends to take Goma. A Congo government spokesman said that negotiations were out of the question, despite the fact Kazarama had said he was willing to give proposed talks a chance.

The rebel group is estimated to consist of 2,500 to 3,000 soldiers and is named for Mar. 23, 2009, peace accords that the group says were never implemented.

In 2008, another group known as the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) came close to taking Goma before being stopped. It negotiated with the government and the peace accord it brokered is the same that has inspired the M23 rebellion.

Brits urged to leave Goma

Foreign Secretary William Hague issued a statement on Sunday, voicing concern regarding the "rapidly deteriorating security and humanitarian situation" and called for British nationals to leave Goma. "I urge those with influence over M23 to call on them to stop fighting and not to provide them any external support. I call for a cessation of hostilities and for all parties to engage to resolve this crisis without further bloodshed," he said.

U.N. assisting DRC

A press release from the United Nations News Center issued on Sunday noted that U.N. peacekeepers were assisting the national army because of M23's advance.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the hostilities, and his spokesperson echoed British sentiments regarding states with influence on M23, alluding to Rwanda without naming the country.

Shawn Humphrey is a former contributor to The Flint Journal and an amateur Africanist, focusing his personal studies on human rights and political issues on the continent.

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