May 17, 2014

Shs250B Needed to Resettle M23 Rebels – ICGLR Official

M23 rebels walk inside an enclosure after surrendering to Uganda's government at Rugwerero village in Kisoro district. Reuters.
M23 rebels walk inside an enclosure after surrendering to Uganda’s government at Rugwerero village in Kisoro district. Reuters.

Now that the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has ended, it is time to accelerate the demobilisation and reintegration of the former M23 rebels.

Georges Ribeli Chicoti, Angola’s Minister for External Affairs, told journalists in Kampala that the cost of the process stands at 100 million US Dollars. Angola is the current chair and holds the secretariat of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR).

Chicoti says they need to work more now with the DRC government to accelerate the demobilization and reintegration of the M23. He adds that much as the conflict is over and the Congolese government has passed the Amnesty Law this is not enough. The Angolan External Affairs Minister says the rebels have to sign individual forms which will then be sent to the DRC Ministry of Justice. This can then be followed by issuance of an individual amnesty to each one of the rebels.

The amnesty covers “acts of insurgency, acts of war and political offenses” committed in the DRC up to December 20, 2013, when the bill was approved by the government. It however excluded more serious crimes like genocide, crimes against humanity, terrorism, torture, sexual violence, child conscription, embezzlement and looting.

Chicoti notes that this process shall cost them an estimated 100 million Dollars which needs to be mobilized by all stakeholders.

Majority of the M23 rebels are now camped in Western Uganda in areas of Rwamwanja in Kamwenge district and Nakivale refugee camp in Isingiro district.

Some donations are expected to come not only from the DRC government but from countries within the Great Lakes region and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa noted that they expect support from the United Nations that was a guarantor in the signing of the agreement and the World Bank President Jim Yong Kim who promised support after visiting the DRC.

Chicoti, however, expressed disappointment with the amnesty process questioning why the forms were only provided to the 1,600 former rebels in Uganda and not the 600 others based in Rwanda. He adds that he will be travelling to the DRC in the next few days to start implementing these processes.

The M23 group led by Sultan Makenga was defeated in November 2013 after government forces with support from the UN Intervention force launched an assault on rebel positions in the east of the DRC.

The offensive occurred one day after insurgents called for a ceasefire and decided to pursue their goals through political means.

The group which once made up the strongest army in the mineral-rich but impoverished Kivu region were granted a grace period of six months starting February 2014 to approach the government and vow in writing not to commit any acts that come under the present amnesty.

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