“The M23 must cease violence, must disarm as the UN Security Council demanded,” said on Monday Mary Robinson, the UN special envoy for the Great Lakes region, during a visit to the flash-point city of Goma, the capital of North Kivu province.
Government troops backed by the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC, known as MONUSCO, have been fighting the rebels in the province.
In a meeting with provincial governor Julien Paluku earlier in the day, Robinson said, “What happened here in Goma is terrible. I’m glad that calm has returned.”
“I have come for the people of Goma, the women, the children. That is what is important,” she added.
The UN envoy is set to take part in a September 5 summit of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) in the Ugandan capital Kampala to discuss the conflict in the DRC with other African leaders.
On Friday, the Congolese army captured strategic hills overlooking Goma after M23 rebels pulled out from the area.
A new UN intervention brigade has been given a stronger mandate by the UN Security Council to launch offensive operations against armed groups in eastern Congo.
The M23 rebels seized Goma on November 20, 2012 after UN peacekeepers gave up the battle for the frontier city. The rebels withdrew from the city on December 1, 2012 under a ceasefire accord.
During a November 24 summit of the ICGLR, an 11-member regional bloc, the Congolese government pledged to start peace talks with M23 rebels.
The talks between Kinshasa and the M23 began in December 2012 but broke down in April 2013.
The M23 rebels and several other armed groups are active in 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.
Since early May 2012, nearly three million people have fled their homes in eastern Congo. About 2.5 million have resettled in Congo, but about 500,000 have crossed into neighboring Rwanda and Uganda.