Congo M23 movement facing military end: UN envoy
The Congolese army backed by UN troops has defeated the March 23 movement (M23) that threatened towns in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the UN special representative to the country has said.
Martin Kobler, who is also the head of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), made the remarks to the UN Security Council by video-link on Monday, AFP reported.
“Practically all M23 positions were abandoned yesterday, except for a small triangle at the Rwandan border,” he said.
Kobler said the M23 had abandoned a key position on Mount Hehu near the Rwandan border, adding, “It is practically the military end of the M23.”
Gerard Araud, the French ambassador to the United Nations, who was at Kobler’s closed-door briefing, confirmed his report.
“We can say today that the M23 is finished, militarily,” Araud told reporters, noting that “Most of the positions held by the M23 have been retaken by Democratic Republic of Congo forces.”
Araud and other diplomats at the United Nations expressed hope that defeat on the battlefield would convince the rebel faction to return to peace talks.
Peace talks between Congolese government and the M23 rebels have been suspended over disagreements on an amnesty for the rebels.
The Congolese army is battling the rebels with the help of the new UN intervention brigade in the east of the country. The brigade, made up of some 3,000 troops, has a stronger mandate compared to previous UN peacekeeping missions.
The intervention brigade was created after the M23 rebels invaded and briefly occupied Goma, home to about one million people, last November. The rebels withdrew from the city on December 1, 2012 under a ceasefire accord.
The M23 rebels and several other armed groups are active in the eastern Congo and are fighting for control of the country’s vast mineral resources, such as gold, the main tin ore cassiterite, and coltan (columbite-tantalite), which is used to make many electronic devices, including cell phones.
The M23 rebels defected from the Congolese army in April 2012 in protest over alleged mistreatment in the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC). They had previously been integrated into the Congolese army under a peace deal signed in 2009.
Since early May 2012, nearly three million people have fled their homes in the eastern Congo. About 2.5 million have resettled in Congo, but about 500,000 have crossed into neighboring Rwanda and Uganda.
Congo has faced numerous problems over the past few decades, such as grinding poverty, crumbling infrastructure, and a war in the east of the country that has dragged on since 1998 and left over 5.5 million people dead.