GOMA: Thousands of Congolese soldiers and policemen defected to the M23 rebels yesterday as rebel leaders vowed to take control of all of the Democratic Republic of Congo, including the capital, Kinshasa.

“We are now going to Kinshasa. No one will divide this country,” Colonel Vianney Kazarama, the M23 spokesman, told a cheering crowd of thousands.

The rebels organised the rally at Goma’s Stadium of Volcanoes after seizing control of the strategic city in eastern Congo on Tuesday.

Kazarama first welcomed the crowd in Swahili by shouting “Goma Jambo!” meaning “Hello Goma!”

Kazarama said the M23 rebels’ next goal was Bukavu, the capital of South Kivu province on the other side of Lake Kivu. He claimed the rebels already controlled the town of Sake, 27km from Goma on the road to Bukavu, and would soon take Minova, a lakeside town in South Kivu.

About 2 100 army troops and 700 police turned in their weapons, according to M23’s Colonel Seraphin Mirindi. –