The Democratic Republic of Congo’s government has accused the M23 rebels of murdering more than 60 people and wounding more than 200 since they captured the city of Goma last week. The United Nations says it can confirm there have been killings in Goma but cannot say who was responsible.
The accusations were made by the DRC government spokesman Lambert Mende at a press conference in Kinshasa on Wednesday.
Citing sources in hospitals and in local government, Mende said 64 people had been deliberately murdered by the M23 in Goma in the nine days since they took over the town. He also said 228 civilians had been admitted to hospitals and clinics in the town for serious bullet and bayonet wounds.
Long list of accusations
The alleged killings and woundings were part of a long list of accusations made against the movement by the government spokesman.
Mende said there has been systematic looting in Goma since last week, particularly of houses and cars belonging to senior government officials, most of whom have fled. He said stocks of minerals have disappeared, dozens of lorries have been stolen and sold at knocked-down prices, and accused M23 of even pillaging a hospital.
Who Are the M23 Rebels?
Named for March 23, the date of a 2009 peace deal
Contains fighters once loyal to a rebel army who assimilated into the DRC army, then defected
Formed in early 2012
Dominated by the Tutsi ethnic group
Also known as the Congolese Revolutionary Army
UN experts say the group is backed by Rwanda, which Rwanda denies
He said, on the night of November 25 the military hospital at Katindo was looted by wreckers from M23. The equipment was taken out of the country, said Mende, by those who, in his words, "dare to call themselves Congolese patriots."
The accusations come about 36 hours after a deadline expired for the M23 to leave Goma. The presidents of the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda agreed at the weekend to give the rebels 48 hours to move their troops out of the eastern city, the capital of North Kivu province.
The United Nations peacekeeping mission MONUSCO said Wednesday it could not confirm that the M23 had left or was leaving Goma.
MONUSCO spokesman Mounoubai Manodge said some troops had left but others had arrived.
MONUSCO investigating murders
Manodge said MONUSCO is investigating the accusation that M23 carried out dozens of murders in the town.
"We have received information regarding some killings carried out by the M23 in Goma. We can’t confirm the figure - we are investigating this. We can only speak about verifiable numbers. We can confirm that there have been some killings but we have to make sure they were done by M23 before we can say anything," said Manodge.
MONUSCO has evacuated 22 magistrates from Goma on the grounds that their lives might be in danger. At least one of them came close to being killed, said Manodge.
"One of the magistrates was involved in a trial where one of the M23’s leaders was condemned. So when the M23 took power, they went for him and the guy told him ‘You condemned me to 12 years, me I’m condemning you to death’, and they were about to kill him, but some people intervened. That’s how his life was saved," he said.
VOA tried to contact M23 for its reaction to the allegations but it spokesmen were not immediately available.
In the past few days M23 spokesmen have been saying the movement won’t evacuate Goma until the government agrees to enter negotiations.
Government spokesman Mende said the government had agreed to listen to the movement and to re-evaluate a previous agreement which it signed with armed groups, including the M23’s leaders, in 2009.
But the M23 has to get out of Goma before that re-evaluation can start, he said.