UN Peacekeepers on new DRC alert
19 December 2012, 14:51
New York - The United Nations put peacekeeper reinforcements on alert on Tuesday after hundreds of rebels moved around the key Democratic Republic of Congo city of Goma, UN officials said.
The UN raised new worries about the M23 and other rebel groups as it announced that at least 126 women were raped in a nearby town, mainly by Congolese government troops as they retreated from Goma last month.
The DRC government has been battling the M23, which UN experts say is backed by Rwanda, since March when the rebel group launched a mutiny.
The M23 briefly took Goma last month before withdrawing and agreeing to start talks with the government in Kampala.
The UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladous briefed the UN Security Council about renewed tensions around Goma and preparations in case new hostilities erupt.
Afterwards, he told reporters hundreds of M23 fighters have been reported to be inside a cease-fire zone 20km around Goma.
"We are ready to send reinforcements to Goma very, very quickly if circumstances demand," Ladsous said.
He said rebels are carrying out "erratic but worrying movements" around the city and the UN mission "is very much on the alert and patrolling constantly, including with aircraft."
The UN has its biggest peacekeeping mission in DRC, with more than 17 000 troops who are spread thin in the huge country.
The M23 agitation could be linked to the talks between their leaders and the government in Kampala, Ladsous speculated.