Africa

DR Congo M23 rebels 'all but finished', says UN

Government forces celebrate in Rumangabo, 28 Oct
Image caption Government forces celebrate the capture of Rumangabo

The UN's special envoy in the Democratic Republic of Congo has told the organisation's Security Council that the M23 rebel movement is all but finished as a military threat.

Martin Kobler said the M23 had abandoned most military positions in the east and was confined to a small triangle close to the Rwandan border.

A fifth rebel-held area in a week fell to government forces on Monday.

The rebels say that their withdrawals are temporary.

Mr Kobler told the UN Security Council by video-link: "It is practically the military end of the M23."

He said the rebels had abandoned a key position on Mount Hehu near the Rwandan border.

After the UN meeting, French ambassador Gerard Araud said he hoped there would now be talks between the rebels and the government.

He said: "Mr Kobler has briefed us and basically he told us that we are witnessing the military end of the M23.

"So I think it's a positive development of course and there was a general agreement that now we should go back to the table of negotiation in Kampala."

Peace talks between the government and M23, hosted by neighbouring Uganda, broke down last week.

There had previously been about two months of relative calm in eastern DR Congo.

'Retreating rebels'

Cheering crowds reportedly welcomed government troops on Monday as they entered Rumangabo town, where the latest M23 base to fall was located.

The government is re-establishing its rule there, said North Kivu province governor Julien Palukui.

"We have just held two meetings in order to discuss how to uplift the population... and we are announcing the restoration of the civil service within the next 24 hours,'' he added.

Rumangabo - about 50km (30 miles) north of Goma, the main city in eastern DR Congo - had one of the three biggest military bases in DR Congo before it fell to the rebels last year.

There is no doubt that the government forces have achieved huge victories over the rebels, says the BBC's Maud Jullien in the capital, Kinshasa.

The UN has deployed a new intervention brigade to eastern DR Congo with a stronger mandate to confront armed groups.

On Sunday, the UN mission in DR Congo, Monusco, said a Tanzanian peacekeeper was killed during fighting with the M23 in the town of Kiwanja.

"The soldier died while protecting the people of Kiwanja," Monusco said in a statement.

The military success in Rumangabo followed the capture of four other areas - Kiwanja, Rutshuru, Buhumba and Kibumba - since the weekend, the army said.

M23 officials in Uganda said their fighters had retreated because government and UN forces had launched a joint assault, reports the BBC's Ignatius Bahizi from Uganda's capital, Kampala.

Rebel forces were outnumbered, they said.

M23 fighters planned to regroup before making their next move, the officials added.

At least 800,000 people have fled their homes in DR Congo since the M23 launched its rebellion in April 2012, the UN humanitarian agency, Ocha, says.

The rebels briefly occupied eastern DR Congo's main town, Goma, in November 2012 before pulling out under international pressure.

The M23 are mainly ethnic Tutsis, like most of Rwanda's leaders.

Rwanda and Uganda deny persistent Congolese and UN allegations that the neighbours are backing the rebel forces.

Eastern DR Congo has been wracked by conflict since 1994, when Hutu militias fled across the border from Rwanda after carrying out a genocide against Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

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