UN condemns DR Congo rebels

KINSHASA - The UN Security Council has backed a resolution calling for sanctions against leaders of rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The resolution, adopted unanimously, came hours after the M23 rebels seized the strategic eastern city of Goma.

The insurgents met little resistance from the army or UN peacekeepers.

In its resolution, the Security Council demanded an end to foreign support for the rebels and expressed readiness to take appropriate measures.

After M23 fighters entered Goma, the leaders of DR Congo and Rwanda, Joseph Kabila and Paul Kagame, flew to Kampala for talks with their Ugandan counterpart, amid claims that Rwanda was backing the rebels.

Meetings are expected to continue on Wednesday.

The UN's failure to confront insurgents has raised questions about its largest and costliest peacekeeping mission.

The blue helmets gave up the battle for Goma without firing a shot, standing aside as M23 rebels - widely believed to be backed by Rwanda - overran the frontier city of up to one million people.

For French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, it was "absurd" that the UN troops had allowed the rebels to parade past them. He urged that the mandate of the more than 17,000-strong force be reviewed.

The DR Congo peacekeepers - known by their acronym Monusco - are authorised to use force to protect civilians and support Congolese army operations against rebel groups and militias competing for control of mineral wealth in the lawless east of the country.

They have been criticised before for failing to respond adequately to atrocities against civilians committed by the rebels, notably a mass rape near one of their bases in 2010.

Mr Kabila has urged people to "resist" the M23, who launched their rebellion seven months ago.

But there was no resistance from the nearly 1,500 UN peacekeepers in the city, which lies two hours' drive away from Rwanda's capital, Kigali.

A UN spokesman said its peacekeepers had held their fire as rebels took the city to avoid triggering a battle, putting civilians at risk.

In the resolution, proposed by France, the members of the Security Council strongly condemned the seizure of Goma and asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to look into reports that external support had greatly increased the rebels' military capability.

They have already imposed sanctions on the head of the M23 rebel group and are planning to target more leadership figures.

Goma, with a population of about one million, is the main city in resource-rich eastern DR Congo and is the main point for processing minerals coming out of the country.

Some locals reportedly shouted "welcome" and "thank you" as M23 leader Sultani Makenga and hundreds of his fighters entered Goma.

But the UN has said it has received reports that the rebels have abducted women and children from Goma. Killings and looting have also been reported.

Col Makenga told the BBC French Service that it was absurd to believe that Rwanda was backing his rebellion.

"It's a lie, it's Kinshasa propaganda. Kinshasa can talk a lot so when they're feeling the heat they try to defend themselves and that's why they say Rwanda, they say Uganda, tomorrow they will say United States or England - that's how it is," he said.

On Wednesday morning, Goma was quiet and calm, the BBC's Gabriel Gatehouse, who is in the city, reports.

The rebels are urging police officers and remaining government troops to present themselves at the stadium and hand in their weapons, our correspondent says.

The UN has a 22,000-strong force in DR Congo, known by its acronym Monusco. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has described as "absurd" the UN's failure to intervene in Goma, calling for a change in its mandate.

But UN deputy spokesman said that with only 1,500 peacekeepers a "value judgement" had to be made: "Do you open fire and put civilians at risk or do you hold your fire, continue your patrols, observe what is happening and remind the M23 that they are subject to international humanitarian and human rights law?"

During Monday's UN Security Council hearing, diplomats from DR Congo and neighbouring Rwanda wrangled over responsibility for the rebellion, AFP news agency reported.

While sanctions have already been ordered against M23 leader Sultani Makenga, the new resolution (2076) calls on the UN sanctions committee to review urgently the cases of other M23 figures, including Innocent Kaina and Baudouin Ngaruye.

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