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DRC's M23 rebels 'lick their wounds'

13 September 2013, 07:31

New York - Democratic Republic of Congo forces and the UN troops have forced rebels back from a key eastern city and left them to "lick their wounds," a top United Nations official said on Thursday.

The M23 group around Goma in eastern DRC suffered battlefield defeats, the UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said, suggesting that this is what forced it back to peace talks with the government this week.

M23, which the United Nations says has received support from neighbouring Rwanda, launched an assault on Goma last month, sparking fierce battles with government forces.

An assault by the DRC army, backed by the UN peacekeepers and attack helicopters, forced the rebels away from Goma, the major city in the resource-rich region.

"One very significant achievement was made: that the M23 group has been pushed back towards the north to such a place that it does not any more pose the direct threat that it had posed for such a long time," Ladsous said.

"M23 has suffered casualties" and withdrew to "lick their wounds," he told reporters after the UN Security Council talks on DRC.

The UN forces have strengthened their positions around Goma and it was "no surprise" that M23 has returned to peace talks with the government in the Ugandan capital, he added.

New political efforts

Mary Robinson, UN special envoy for the Great Lakes region, told the Security Council that M23 had offered to disarm if rival anti-Rwandan rebels operating in the region also laid down their arms, according to diplomats in the meeting.

Ladsous said the United Nations now hopes to start using surveillance drones over eastern DRC in early December. The unarmed drones will help the UN monitor the border between DRC and Rwanda, which denies aiding M23.

The UN has also stressed new political efforts to end decades of conflict in the region. African heads of state are to meet to discuss the DRC in New York on September 23 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly leaders' summit.

Eleven African nations, including DRC and Rwanda, signed up to a UN-brokered declaration in February agreeing not to interfere in each other's affairs.

A Security Council statement released after Thursday's meeting expressed "concern" at the tensions in eastern DRC and said all signatories of the political cooperation accord had to "fulfill their commitments in good faith".



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