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Congo rebels to go to Uganda for negotiations

BUNAGANA, Congo — Congo's M23 rebels are sending a delegation to Kampala, Uganda, to negotiate with the Congolese government on Thursday, the rebels' president said.

''Our delegation will drive to Kampala for talks,'' M23 president Jean-Marie Runiga said Wednesday.

Runiga said the talks with representatives of President Joseph Kabila's Kinshasa government must be wide-ranging negotiations to cover constitutional and governance issues and should include the Congolese opposition and civic organizations.

The prospect of negotiations in neighboring Uganda comes as the strategic eastern Congo city of Goma, with 1 million people, struggles returns to normal life.

Goma was held for two weeks by the M23 rebels, who now remain just 1.8 miles away in the hills above the city. Although many shops in Goma have reopened, most banks have remained closed, paralyzing the city's business.


The M23 rebels — who are backed by Rwanda, according to the United Nations — have threatened to retake Goma unless Kabila's government starts negotiations.

Despite the rebels' retreat from Goma, which was a prerequisite set by the Congolese government for negotiations, the government has not yet confirmed if it will talk with the rebels. On Sunday, spokesman Lambert Mende said Kabila would listen to M23's grievances and then respond.

The rebels say they are fighting for better governance and democracy in Congo. But the real reason for their rebellion is Rwanda's desire to annex the mineral-rich mountains of eastern Congo, according to a recently published report by a UN group of experts.

In recent weeks, the enormous, jungle-covered nation of Congo, whose capital is more than 1,000 miles away from Goma, inched closer to war with its smaller, but more developed neighbor, Rwanda, which is accused of sending soldiers and arms to the M23.

Congo's Interior Minister Richard Muyej said that Congo is working hard to fill the power vacuum that was left in Goma by the rebels' departure.