“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 … on the city of Goma,” said the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsou on Thursday.
The UN official described the operation against the M23 rebels as a “very significant achievement” which is likely to bring the rebels to the negotiating table with the government in neighboring Uganda’s capital, Kampala.
Congolese troops and UN peacekeepers have been fighting for over a year to crush a rebellion by the M23 rebels, who defected from the Congolese army in April 2012 in protest over alleged mistreatment in the army.
UN experts have accused neighboring Rwanda of sending fighters and arms to Congo to support the M23 rebels.
Rwanda has always denied the charges that it is backing the M23, but Kigali has never publicly condemned the militia, which is strengthening its grip over the provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu in eastern Congo.
The M23 rebels had seized Goma, the main city in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, on November 20, 2012 after UN peacekeepers gave up the battle for the frontier city. The rebels, however, withdrew from the city on December 1, 2012 under a ceasefire accord.
During a November 24 summit of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (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.
Last month, fighting between the M23 insurgents and the Congolese army, backed by UN peacekeepers, broke out again.