The top official of the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) says he is encouraged by the decision of M23 rebels to stop their rebellion to allow for peace talks between warring parties in restive North Kivu province.
Martin Kobler, who is also the special representative of the U.N. secretary-general to the DRC, expressed hope that the government and the M23 will soon sign a peace deal to end the conflict and to restore peace and stability.
His comments came after the M23 rebel group announced they are laying down their arms, after military forces drove them from their last remaining strongholds. This, after African heads of state and government called for an end in the DRC conflict following their meeting in South Africa’s capital, Pretoria.
“I have been very encouraged by this development, because it is really important, one with respect to the political process now tied to the Kampala agreement and then the forces of the M23 would be reintegrated in military or in civilian lives,” said Kobler.
He said MONUSCO will continue to keep its mandate to protect unarmed civilians from attack by armed groups in spite of the M23 decision to end its rebellion.
“This we take very seriously, but M23 is only one part of the problem. Eastern Congo is occupied by several armed groups who are terrorizing the population, committing atrocities and our mandate is to stop [them] with force even if it requires fighting,” said Kobler.
Kobler says after a peace deal is signed in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, the government in Kinshasa will need to re-establish law and order in areas that often come under rebel attack.
Kobler, who recently visited the liberated M23 strongholds with the governor, emphasized the need for government officials to take steps to provide adequate security and much needed services to the people.
“We have this concept of creating islands of stability, but it’s the government which has to [reintroduce] state authority in these areas. This means in practical terms the police, stability, it means [the] army in the area, it means the judiciary system and the basic services like health and education,” said Kobler.
He also said the Kampala peace talks have been intensified to resolve other sticking points between the government and the M23.
“We witnessed these negotiations between the government and the M23 starting from 8 o’clock in the evening running through 9 o’clock the next morning,” said Kobler. “The problems are fixed, and the agreement has to be signed and that is why I am very glad that the M23 declared the end of the rebellion. This was the first step, and the government was responding positively to this declaration of the end of the rebellion.”