Government troops in the Democratic Republic of
Congo said they had gained more ground against
M23 rebels Monday as the head of the UN mission in
the country described the movement as finished.
“Practically all M23 positions were abandoned
yesterday, except for a small triangle at the Rwandan
border,” Martin Kobler told the UN Security Council
by video-link, according to diplomats.
He said that the M23 had abandoned a key position
on Mount Hehu near the Rwandan border, reportedly
adding: “It is practically the military end of the M23.”
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,” Gerard Araud told reporters. “Most of the
positions held by the M23 have been retaken by
Democratic Republic of Congo forces.”
Mr Araud and other diplomats expressed hope that
defeat on the battlefield would convince the rebel
faction to return to peace talks.
Mr Kobler, the civilian special representative in
charge of the UN stabilization mission in the DRC,
was speaking after Congolese government forces
backed by UN troops carried out an offensive.
Troops from the UN peacekeeping mission MONUSCO
have a mandate to conduct operations against rebels
in the region of Goma, capital of the restive province
of North Kivu.
Rolled back
A Tanzanian UN soldier was killed in the fighting, but
the rebels were rolled back and local civilians are
overjoyed, Mr Kobler said, according to officials
present at the closed door meeting.
He said that the M23 had abandoned a key position
on Mount Hehu near the Rwandan border, reportedly
adding: “It is practically the military end of the M23.”
The mainly Tutsi M23 movement emerged in April
2012 after a mutiny by former rebels who had been
taken into the Democratic Republic of Congo army
under a 2009 deal.
Rebels accused Kinshasa of failing to keep the terms
of that deal, then on-off talks in the Ugandan capital
Kampala failed after the government refused to give
an amnesty to about 80 rebel leaders.
The M23’s numbers were limited, but the movement,
which allegedly received support from neighbouring
Rwanda, was seen as a threat to stability in a region
with long history of conflict.
Rwanda’s UN ambassador, Eugene Richard Gasana,
alleged that 21 shells had fallen on the Rwandan side
of the border during the fighting and that two
civilians had been killed and 10 wounded.
He said that 15 wounded M23 fighters had crossed
into Rwanda and been handed over to the Red Cross
and that 1,000 refugees had fled the fighting.
“Rwanda will be forced to take action if Rwandan
lives continue to be jeopardized,” he warned,
according to diplomats who were at the briefing.
“Rwanda will not tolerate for much longer violations
of its territorial integrity,” he said, according to the
officials, alleging that Rwandan Hutu FDLR rebels
were operating alongside Congolese forces.
Seized control
Mr Kobler, according to diplomats, confirmed some
shells had fallen on Rwandan soil and said the United
Nations would take steps against the FDLR once the
M23 threat was dealt with.
Troops seized back control of a major military base at
Rumanagabo, which lies about 40 kilometres (25
miles) north of Goma, the strategic capital of
embattled North Kivu province, Lieutenant-Colonel
Olivier Hamuli told news wire AFP.
“We fought, but not for very long — the enemy is
demoralised by the strength of (our) firepower,”
Hamuli said on the fourth day of an offensive against
the M23, following the suspension of peace talks in
Uganda.
Troops recaptured two other towns, Kiwanja and
Rutshuru, at the weekend and heavy fighting was
reported at Kibumba, around 25 kilometres from
Goma, where soldiers cleaning up the area made the
grim discovery of three mass graves.
One witness who did not give his name reported
seeing “horrible things” at the site of the graves.
‘Bodies’
“I saw three or four child skulls, underwear and
women’s clothing. There were insects in some places,
which meant there were not just bones there.
“Further on there was a large ravine where people
said quite a lot of bodies had been thrown but I
wasn’t able to check,” the witness said.
A special commission has been tasked with
“identifying the graves” and “determining their scale
as well as those responsible for these serious human
rights violations”, Defence Minister Alexandre Luba
Ntambo said.
Mr Ntambo said there was “no limit” to army action
to drive out rebels.
M23 is “a rebel movement, a negative force… I don’t
see how someone can stand up and tell us when to
stop”, he said.
The renewed fighting — the heaviest since August —
has sparked concern from the West, prompting calls
for restraint.

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