The Democratic Republic of Congo’s M23 rebels can only be defeated by political means and not militarily, a member of a UN Security Council delegation visiting the African country said Saturday.
“Only a political solution is a way out of this situation,” Alexis Lamek, France’s deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, told the press.
The M23 was founded by mutineers who were incorporated into the Congolese army under a 2009 peace deal.
Complaining the deal was never fully implemented, they mutinied in April 2012, turning their guns on their former comrades and launching the latest rebellion to ravage DR Congo’s mineral-rich and conflict-prone east.
The UN and various rights groups have accused the M23 of atrocities including rape and murder in a conflict that has caused tens of thousands of refugees to flee.
The UN also accuses Rwanda and Uganda of backing the M23, a charge both countries deny.
“There is no military solution” to the crisis, said Morocco’s UN representative Mohammed Loulichki, but he added that there was “undeniably a dynamic for peace in DRC and the region”.
“We must not miss this opportunity.”
The two diplomats were referring to talks between the DR Congo government and the rebels in the Ugandan capital Kampala that resumed last month but then stalled.
One of the negotiators for the Congolese government, Francois Muamba, told AFP on Wednesday that the talks got bogged down over the issue of an amnesty for rebels suspected of war crimes, crimes against humanity or serious human rights abuses and their reintegration in the national army.
The political future of M23 leaders was also controversial, he said.
Congolese authorities have published a list with the names of about 70 rebels, including key M23 leaders, who would not be granted an amnesty or incorporated into the army if a peace deal is signed.
“There are questions where it is difficult to give in,” said Lamek.
The Security Council delegates met Congolese President Joseph Kabila and members of his government on Saturday.
They were supposed to travel to Rwanda and to Uganda before flying back to New York.