UNITED NATIONS Nov 20 U.N. peacekeepers in the
eastern Democratic Republic of Congo cannot substitute for the
country's own security forces, the United Nations said on
Tuesday, after the world body's troops gave up the battle
against rebels for the city of Goma.
Fighters from the M23 rebel group, widely believed to be
backed by neighboring Rwanda, entered Goma on Tuesday following
days of clashes with U.N.-backed Congolese soldiers that forced
tens of thousands of residents to flee.
"MONUSCO (the U.N. mission in Congo), of course, cannot
substitute for the efforts of national security forces including
the FARDC (Congo national army)," said Eduardo del Buey, U.N.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman.
"The U.N. peacekeepers' use of force is principally to
protect civilians and not to engage in armed confrontation for a
broader military purpose," he said.
A senior U.N. source told Reuters earlier on Tuesday that
the peacekeepers gave up defending the frontier city of about 1
million people after the Congolese troops evacuated under
pressure from the advancing rebels.
Del Buey said there were about 1,500 peacekeepers in Goma,
who would stay "to protect civilians from imminent threat."
"MONUSCO remains in control of the airport in Goma. Robust
patrolling by 17 quick reaction force teams is also ongoing," he
said. "MONUSCO is closely monitoring the situation."
"Reports indicate that the M23 has wounded civilians, is
continuing abductions of children and women, is destroying
property and is intimidating journalists and those who have
attempted to resist their control," Del Buey said.
The M23 rebellion has aggravated tensions between Congo and
its neighbor 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.
U.N. experts say Rwanda, a small but militarily capable
country that has intervened in Congo repeatedly in the past 18
years, is behind the revolt. The experts have also accused
Uganda of aiding M23.