SAKE, Congo -- Congo's president has suspended the army's chief of staff after the publication of a United Nations report that finds that Gen. Gabriel Amisi oversaw a criminal network selling arms to rebels in the country's troubled east.
The firing of the general indicates that Congo is finally getting tough on its notoriously dysfunctional and internally divided army. It comes as an 8-month-old rebel group, made up of soldiers who defected from the army, pushed beyond Goma, the bustling regional capital of eastern Congo, which fell to the fighters earlier this week.
Yesterday, M23 rebels patrolled the town of Sake, the next town on the road south from Goma. They manned checkpoints, drank vodka in local bars and let the corpses of Congolese soldiers rot in the streets. One of the soldiers' bodies bore an execution-style bullet wound to the temple.
The rebellion is led by soldiers who defected from the Congolese army. Before their recent defection, their commanders benefited from a privileged relationship with Congo's government, despite mounting evidence of their complicity in grave abuses.
The leader of the M23 is believed to be Gen. Bosco Ntaganda, who is wanted for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court.
Tens of thousands of civilians, many with babies bundled on their backs, could be seen fleeing along a 6-mile stretch of the road to Goma, carrying mattresses and cooking pots on their heads, as well as live chickens and goats. The town of Sake was nearly deserted. A lone father returned to his empty house. He had fled on Thursday when the shooting erupted, but lost track of his four children in the scramble to get out of town. The youngest are just 2 and 4 years old, he said.
"We heard shots from the hills," said Timothe Mashamba. "We fled, but now I have returned. I lost my four children when we fled and haven't found them. I am waiting for them here. I can't leave. They won't know where to find me."