President Kabila staring in the face of his country’s break-up

By Henry D Gombya, Editor; includes agency reports

M23 rebels stand guard outside a building in the city of Goma in the east of the DRC on Tuesday.

Africa’s second largest country is this morning heading for a break-up following the capture of the city of Goma east of the country. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) which is as big as Western Europe and has a population of 71 million people has for the last 18 years fighting wars moistly started by its neighbours, especially Uganda and Rwanda who have been accused by the United Nations of plundering the country’s wealth of diamonds, gold, copper, cobalt and zinc.

The country also has supplies of coltan, which is used in mobile phones and other electronic gadgets and cassiterite which is used in food packaging. One would think that a country with this kind of wealth would afford quite easily training a professional army that could easily defend its borders. Unfortunately for the people of DRC is the fact that the country’s resource wealth has rarely been harnessed for their benefit. This vast country has hardly any roads or railways, while the health and education systems lie in ruins. Instead the natural riches have attracted rapacious adventurers, unscrupulous corporations, vicious warlords and corrupt governments and divided the population between competing ethnic groups.

Despite its size and wealth, it looks like the country’s leaders have failed to have a military force strong enough to fight off less wealthier countries who have been accused by the United Nations of helping arm the M23 rebels that have now seized the city of Goma. The M23 seized Goma in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday, and U.N. peacekeepers who last week used helicopter gunships to try and halt the rebels advance, could only look on as the fighters entered the city. Congolese troops, who had all last week vowed to fight off the rebels, were said to have simply thrown their weapons away and ran for dear life.

A senior U.N. source told Reuters that international peacekeepers gave up defending Goma after the Congolese troops evacuated under pressure from the advancing rebels. “There is no army left in the town, not a soul… Once they were in the town what could we do? It could have been very serious for the population,” he said asking not to be named. The M23 rebellion has aggravated tensions between Congo and its neighbour Rwanda, which Kinshasa’s government says is orchestrating the insurgency as a means of grabbing the chaotic region’s mineral wealth. Rwanda denies the assertion. “We will continue (resisting) until Rwanda has been pushed out of our country … There will be absolutely no negotiations with M23,” Congolese Information Minister Lambert Mende said, adding that Kinshasa would talk directly only with Rwanda.

U.N. experts say Rwanda, a small but militarily capable neighbour that has intervened in Congo repeatedly over the past 18 years, is behind the revolt. Congo’s mineral wealth, including diamonds, gold, copper and coltan – used in mobile phones – has inflamed the conflict and little has been spent on developing a country the size of Western Europe. The capture of Goma will also be an embarrassment for President Joseph Kabila, who won re-election late last year in polls that provoked widespread riots and which international observers said were marred by fraud. Congolese state television reported on Tuesday that Kabila, who has made few public comments on the rebellion in recent weeks, is travelling to Uganda, the mediator in the conflict with the eastern rebels

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