U.N. peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo are being redeployed to Goma as a rebel group advances toward the city.
"The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, or DRC, is concerned by the security situation in the country's east, where a rebel group of former solders, known as M23, has made advances in recent days," a U.N. spokesperson told reporters Monday.
The M23 has taken several towns in the region in recent weeks and is now roughly 6 miles from the provincial capital, though it has said that it does not intend to enter Goma and is seeking to negotiate with the government.
There are around 17,000 U.N. peacekeeping troops already stationed in the DRC as part of a stabilizing mission in the conflict-ridden country, which has been dealing with ongoing disputes following a five-year civil war from 1998 to 2003.
Goma is in the province of North Kivu, bordering Rwanda. The region has been destabilized by longstanding political, socio-economic and ethnic divisions.
The M23, which seeks to establish control in the Kivu region, is led by former army general Bosco Ntaganda, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes for recruiting child soldiers in 2002 and 2003.
The rebel group formed in April this year amid external pressure to arrest Ntaganda. Most of the rebels are formerly associated with the National Congress for Defense of the People, or CNDP, a political militia comprised of ethnic Tutsis that had engaged in armed conflict with the military and ethnic Hutu militias in the Kivu region until disbanding in 2009.
The M23 takes its name from the date March 23, 2009, when a peace agreement was signed and the CNDP agreed to integrate with the military, though divisions persisted.
The Congolese government has accused Rwanda's Tutsi-led government of supporting the rebels.
In 1994, Rwanda's government was controlled by the minority Hutu ethnic group, and the complex divisions culminated in the state-orchestrated genocide of an estimated 800,000 Tutsis, the dominant ethnic group.
After Tutsi militias rallied, hundreds of thousands of Hutus, fearing retaliation, fled to the DRC's Kivu region, where they remain today. A major part of the conflict is the presence of Hutu militias that had taken part in the genocide.
Since the M23 took up arms, roughly 200,000 people have been displaced from their homes, some fleeing to Rwanda and Uganda.
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