The Battle for Goma

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One week ago, a rebel force known as the M23 took Goma, a crucialeastern city in the Democratic Republic of Congo, marking the latest battle in the country's long-running civil strife. The violence has created over 1 million refugees since this summer, and so far, despite an expensive and extensive mission, the United Nations has been able to do little to actually keep the peace. On Nov. 27, the leader of the rebel forces, Jean-Marie Runiga, said the rebels would ignore the deadline set to hand over the city to government forces issued by the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, a coalition of the DRC's neighbors. Runiga told reporters the rebels would continue to occupy the capital until a new set of conditions were agreed on. Whether the rebels will advance to the city of Bukavu or attempt to spread the insurrection spread to the country's capital, Kinshasha, remains to be seen. As James Verini writes for FP from Goma, the civilian population is both sick of its government and yet afraid of reports of atrocities that follow the movements of the M23. Here's a look at the state of the country as the violence continues.

Above, United Nations armored personnel carriers drive towards a U.N. base in Monigi, just outside Goma, in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, on Nov. 18. Government soldiers were fleeing Goma as rebels advanced.

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The body of a dead Congolese army soldier lies in the road between Goma and Kibati, in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, on Nov. 18.

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The spokesman of the M23 rebel group Lt. Col. Vianney Kazarama addresses a crowd at the Volcanoes Stadium in Goma on Nov. 21. Kazarama attempted to calm and reassure civilians following the fall of Goma to M23 rebels.

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A Congolese police officer is seen through a hole in the wall of a cell at Muzenze prison on Nov. 21 in Goma. Almost all the inmates of Goma's main prison managed to break out after wardens abandoned their positions to flee from the advancing rebels on Nov. 19. The M23 now controls all of Goma and nearby crossing points on the border with Rwanda. A spokesman for the group called on Wednesday for President Joseph Kabila to step down, saying he was not the legitimate winner of elections last year.

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A Congolese boy runs through the town of Sake, just outside of Goma, as gunfire erupted at the edge of the town on Nov. 22. Thousands fled as gunfire and mortar explosions rocked the village.

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Congolese people carrying their children and belongings flee from Sake on a road linking Goma and Bukavu on Nov. 23, at the same time that regional leaders prepared for a summit on the crisis, which the U.N. said had blocked access to camps sheltering tens of thousands of displaced people. The local head of a relief agency reported numerous casualties.

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Congolese women wearing white headbands and holding DR Congo flags stage a demonstration asking for peace in the eastern region on Nov. 23 in Kinshasa.

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A Congolese boy stands in the Mugunga internally-displaced person (IDP) camp just outside of Goma on Nov. 23. The fighting has blocked access to all but one of 31 camps for displaced people in the North Kivu region, the U.N.'s refugee agency said.

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A Congolese woman leaves with her children and carries belongings as they flee from clashes between the rebels and Congolese army soldiers on Nov. 23.

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A woman stands in her ramshackle shelter during a food aid distribution conducted by humanitarian agencies at a camp for IDPs in Mugunga on Nov. 24. The meeting of the regional heads of state went forward without a key player -- Rwandan President Paul Kagame, whose country a United Nations panel has accused of backing the rebels -- and wrapped up quickly without success.
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Above, police officers participate in a registration exercise on Nov. 22, carried out by rebel group M23 at the Goma stadium. The M23 called on members of the Congo police and military to register for re-training by its troops in order to integrate them into the rebel movement's growing forces.

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Ammunition is scattered on the ground at the former Congolese army headquarters in Goma on Nov. 23 as a rebel soldier talks on his cell phone next to a truck full of government munitions that M23 captured from fleeing government troops.

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Government soldiers ride on the back of a truck, on Nov. 25 in Minova, just south of Goma.  

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Chief of staff of the Democratic Republic of Congo ground forces Col. Francois Olenga is seen with his troops, on Nov. 25, near a base in Minova, about 30 miles south of Goma. The fate of Goma remains unclear, although M23 has issued a set of demands, and says they will withdraw from Goma if the government complies.

 

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