Ex-DR Congo rebels’ escape from Uganda causes uncertainty

KAMPALA – There is simmering tension as former fighters of the M23 rebel group flee from a Ugandan military camp back to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo).

DR Congo authorities argue that this may lead to resumption of subversive activities by the former fighters who were defeated by the Congolese and UN troops before fleeing to Uganda in late 2013.

Lambert Mende Omalanga, the Congolese government spokesperson, told reporters in Kinshasa, DR Congo capital this week that hundreds of ex-M23 fighters, including its military leader, Sultani Makenga, who had been exiled in Uganda, sneaked to their former bases in eastern DR Congo.

The Uganda government on Jan. 19 said it had arrested 101 former M23 fighters as they attempted to cross back to the DR Congo.

“These people were arrested on their way back aboard taxi minibuses as normal passengers. On questioning them, all of them were found to be former M23 combatants,” said Ofwono Opondo, a Ugandan government spokesman, told Xinhua.

The arrest came days after some 40 former fighters escaped back to the central African country.

The incident is likely to cause a diplomatic row between the authorities in Uganda and DR Congo.

Uganda has “no sinister motive against” DR Congo, said Opondo. “These are individuals who were trying to escape against the agreed modalities and agreement. We still don’t know the motive of their escape.”

After several months of fighting back in 2013 that sparked a refugee influx into Uganda, the M23 and DR Congo government signed a peace agreement mediated by Uganda.

To fuse the simmering tension, Ugandan and DR Congo authorities are said to be in talks.

Henry Obbo, Uganda’s deputy army spokesman told Xinhua in an interview that the two governments are in talks over the repatriation of the former fighters.

“The ministry of foreign affairs (Uganda) is working closely with the Congolese authorities on the return of the M23. The two government signed agreements in 2014 regarding the M23. We are waiting for what will be agreed and action will be taken,” Obbo said.

Uganda, DR Congo and M23 reached an agreement in 2014 regarding the return of 1,377 former rebels camped at Bihanga military training school in the western district of Ibanda for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration back home.

Of the 1,377 ex-combatants only 200 have been returned home for official disarmament, demobilization and reintegration program.

Eastern DR Congo has got a string of rebel groups that cause mayhem in the central African country.

Source: Angola Press News Agency