UN Security Council team wraps up DR Congo visit

Nicolas de Rivière (3rd L), Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations, United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), speaks with peacekeepers during a ceremony in honour of peacekeepers killed in the line of duty since the mission began, in Goma on 11 March 2023.AFP

A United Nations Security Council delegation wrapped up a three-day visit to DR Congo on Sunday, with ambassadors stressing a political solution to end the raging M23 rebel conflict.

The M23 has seized swathes of territory in the Democratic Republic of Congo's North Kivu province since re-emerging from dormancy in late 2021.

M23 fighters have also advanced in recent days, threatening to cut off all road links to Goma, a city of more than one million people on the Rwandan border.

Fighting between Congolese forces and the M23 -- which is allegedly backed by Rwanda -- has displaced over 800,000 people, according to the UN.

A delegation from the UN Security Council arrived on Thursday in the DRC capital Kinshasa before travelling to Goma on Saturday.

The team met Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi. In Goma they had talks with local officials, civil leaders and toured a displaced persons' camp.

The delegation was due to depart the DRC later Sunday.

France's UN ambassador, Nicolas de Riviere told reporters on Sunday the M23 must withdraw from the territory it occupies.

He added that "it no longer needs to be demonstrated that Rwanda supports the M23" and that Rwandan regulars were also making incursions into North Kivu.

But De Riviere said dialogue was the only way to solve the conflict.

"The way out of the crisis in this case can only be political, can only be through negotiations," he said.

Gabon's UN ambassador Michel Xavier Biang agreed, telling journalists at a news conference that "diplomacy must prevail".

The Security Council visit came after the collapse of an Angola-mediated ceasefire, which was due to take effect on Tuesday. Several previous peace initiatives have also failed.

On Saturday, shelling during M23-army clashes killed five civilians in Kahumiro, 120 kilometres (74 miles) north of Goma, according to security officials and local residents.

The DRC government accuses Rwanda of backing the M23. Independent UN experts, the United States, France and several other western states have also concluded that Rwanda supports the Tutsi-led group. Kigali denies the charge.