Goma: Local residents in Goma on Wednesday said M23 rebel fighters have started trucking food and ammunition out of the key Congolese city, a local official said. Residents had reported the movement of dozens of trucks, said the official, who did not want to be named.
"According to them, they are heading towards Rutshuru and Rumangabo," he added, referring to rebel-held towns north of Goma. The developments in the Democratic Republic of Congo come after the M23's military leader Sultani Makenga said Tuesday that fighters had started transporting provisions, medical supplies and ammunition towards Rutshuru.
The M23 rebels have occupied the strategic eastern city since November 20. But on Tuesday, Makenga said his men would leave Goma within three days. They would pull back 20 kilometres (12 miles) under a deal struck in Kampala the previous day with an east African regional group.
In the streets of Goma, life appeared to be proceeding normally, with the shops open and taxis running. A few rebels were posted at junctions but their presence has been scaled back considerably. Late Tuesday, UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told reporters in New York there were signs the rebels might be getting ready to pull out.
"It seems that the advances have stopped," he said. The rebellion erupted in April when the mainly Tutsi M23 broke away from the DR Congo army. They said that a 2009 deal to end a previous conflict had not been fully implemented.
UN experts have said the forces is backed by neighbouring Rwanda, a charged repeatedly denied in Kigali. Goma is the the capital of the mineral-rich North Kivu region.