Goma is our land, we are here to stay – Colonel Vianey Kazarama of the M23
On his first full day as a master of the city of Goma and its 800 000 fearful inhabitants, Colonel Vianey Kazarama of the M23 insurgents did his best to sound reassuring
“We Congolese have begun our liberation,” he told a gathering of policemen the morning after his rebels had defied the world’s biggest United Nations peacekeeping force and the Security Council to capture the main city in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
After telling the police to go back to work – but not saying who would pay their wages – Kazarama, wearing spotless camouflage that seemed unblemished by months of fighting, promised a peaceful future.
“Our plan is to secure the people and their property,” he told The Daily Telegraph, flanked by youthful insurgents carrying Kalashnikov assault rifles. “Today, the population can sleep well. Last night, we had a quiet night. We ask the people to come back to their homes because now it is peaceful.”
Any rebel guilty of theft, murder or rape would be punished, he promised.
As for the UN Security Council, which passed a unanimous statement yesterday demanding M23’s withdrawal from Goma, Kazarama said: “Goma is my home: I am Congolese. I am not a foreigner. I cannot go anywhere else. Where do they want me to go? Here, I have my brother, I have my friends. This is my land.”
Last night, however, a final report by UN experts charged with investigating the rebels made clear that neighbouring Rwanda was primarily responsible for commanding and supporting the M23 movement. Roger Meece, the UN’s envoy to Congo, told the Security Council yesterday that the rebels had been carrying out “targeted summary executions” of their opponents during their advance.
The M23 revolt began as a mutiny by soldiers against low pay.
As the rebels advanced on Tuesday, the local contingent of about 1500 blue helmets simply retreated to their bases beside Lake Kivu when M23’s assault on Goma began, calmly allowing the city to fall.
In the aftermath, Goma is torn by the combination of hope and foreboding experienced by so many cities in the hands of invaders who promise a new beginning. No fighting took place yesterday, but most shops stayed closed.
Thierry Girens, 25, made clear how little ordinary Congolese expect of their new masters.
“We thank them because they don’t kill us,” he said simply.
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