The M23 group says its ultimate target is to topple the government of Joseph Kabila
A day after seizing control of the provincial capital of Goma, Congolese rebels have threatened to advance on the capital Kinshasa at an event where government soldiers and police surrendered weapons to the insurgents.
Hundreds of security personnel handed over their weapons at a stadium in Goma, the main city in the eastern North Kivu province, Al Jazeera television reports.
The M23 group, believed to be backed by Rwanda, captured Goma on Tuesday after days of fighting with government troops. The group said it will seek talks with the government before taking the town in a surprise move.
A spokesperson for the rebels said they planned to “liberate” the country by moving to the town of Bukavu and then marching on the capital, Kinshasa, nearly 1,600km away.
“The journey to liberate Congo has started now … We’re going to move on to Bukavu and then to Kinshasa. Are you ready to join us?” Vianney Kazarama, spokesperson for M23, is quoted by Al Jazeera as telling a crowd of more than one thousand.
President Joseph Kabila has been in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, since the fall of Goma, holding talks on the crisis with his Rwandan and Ugandan counterparts, Paul Kagame and Yoweri Museveni.
He has urged the Congolese nation to “resist” the rebels and said “war had been imposed” on the country, the BBC reports.
The M23 rebel group was formed in April following an army mutiny. The group added two thousand fighters to its ranks from the Congolese soldiers who came to the stadium, as well as 700 policemen.
The rebel threat has renewed international concern about the likelihood of the 1997-2003 war in DR Congo, in which some five million people died, reigniting.
Last month, a UN panel of experts accused Uganda and Rwanda, both neighbours of DR Congo, of backing the M23 rebel group.
Thousands of residents have fled across the border to Rwanda.