Some M23 rebel soldiers have escaped from Bihanga Military facility hours before Uganda govt planned to hand them to DRC
BREAKING: Uganda to Hand Over M23 Fighters to DRC
The demobilised M23 commander, Sultani Makenga at a press conference in Bunagana, DRC in 2013
Hundreds of M23 combatants have escaped from Uganda military facilities after it emerged that the Ministry of Defence intended to hand them over to the DRC authorities on Tuesday.
The DRC delegation comprising military officers came to Kampala around December 8 to facilitate the transfer of the demobilised M23 fighters.
Contacted, army spokesperson Lt Col Paddy Ankunda said preparations were underway to extradite the M23 members on Tuesday.
“The Nairobi agreement covers everybody,” said Ankunda when asked whether M23 leader Brig Sultan Makenga would also be handed over alongside fighters and commanders who sought refuge in Uganda exactly one year ago.
The M23 fighters and DRC signed what is known as the ‘Nairobi Declarations’ in December 2013 to end a year of a devastating rebellion.
M23 said then they were fighting for democratic change, good governance, the return of the DRC refugees in neighbouring countries and more decentralization to enable government extend social services to the war-torn eastern Congo.
DRC agreed to act on M23’s concerns and also put in place amnesty provisions and security mechanisms to allow the return of the rebels back home.
However, according to the leader of the M23 delegation to Kampala, Rene Abandi, “A year later, only 6 percent of members have benefited from the amnesty, the M23’s prisoners are still not released, a large number of those who return are either arrested or killed and there has not been a single meeting between the DRC Government and the M23 Movement to talk about the implementation of the declarations.”
He further gave examples of former M23 fighters killed by DRC intelligence services.
They include Bonane Rwamakuba Gahene, Head of the Grouping of Bweza, who was reportedly was killed and beheaded in Rubare, Rutshuru’s territory by armed men in regular army’s uniform on September 28.
Félix Shamba, the head of post of Rugari and Kisigari’s management administration who had been granted amnesty, according to Abandi, “was eventually killed by a bullet on October 19, 2014 at his residence by armed men in regular army’s uniform.”
He further named Ms Clémence Kahashi who was reportedly murdered by bullet in her Rutshuru Centre’s residence on November 5 by armed men in regular army’s uniform.
Chimpreports now understands that hundreds of M23 fighters decided to escape after learning that government would surrender them to DRC.
The whereabouts of the escapees remains unknown but it is feared they could return to DRC forcefully.
Ankunda said the army will repatriate the M23 members at 2pm today at Entebbe Airbase.
Observers say the move is likely to have severe security ramifications since the M23 had managed to put DRC on pressure to make key concessions on improving security in Eastern Congo.
With M23 out of the equation, it is feared, DRC may lose the incentive to attack the Rwandan FDLR genocidal group which has since threatened to invade Rwanda.