M23 Rebels Protest Forced Repatriation

M23 rebels have petitioned the Angolan President Eduardo Dos Santos who also doubles the chairperson of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region protesting the manner of their repatriation to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

M23 leader Sultani Makenga surrendered to the UPDF on Thursday in Kisoro, south western Uganda.
M23 leader Sultani Makenga surrendered to the UPDF on Thursday in Kisoro, south western Uganda.

On Tuesday this week, the DRC embarked on preparations to repatriate the former rebels from Bihanga military Camp in Uganda in line with the Nairobi peace accord.

However, some of the rebels fled into hiding. Now, Bertrand Bisiimwa, the leader of the rebels has written to Dos Santos explaining their escape from Bihanga Camp.

In his December 17th letter to Dos Santos, a copy of which URN has obtained, Bisiimwa says that on Tuesday December 16th, at around 04:00 AM several trucks drove into Bihanga Military camp and the officers ordered the ex-combatants to board for transportation to Entebbe airport, where they would be airlifted by Congolese Government aircrafts to DRC.

He says to escape, the forceful repatriation, which goes against their peace agreement with the government, the ex-combatants chose to withdraw to the hills overlooking BIHANGA camp, where they are camped.

He says some of the ex-combatants are seriously injured adding that, they don’t know the situation of their colleagues who couldn’t move.

The rebels want the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region- ICGLR to reign in on the Ugandan and Congolese government to stick to the Nairobi declarations.

While the rebels insist they are camped at Bihanga hills, Lt Colonel Paddy Ankunda, the UPDF spokesperson says the army has information that the rebels are at Rwamwanja refugee camp.

He says the army has started hunting for the rebels who escaped from the camp

M23 denounced war in 2012 and entered into peace negotiations with the DRC government in Kampala. The two parties later signed a Declaration in Nairobi, which provided for the repatriation and reintegration of the rebels into the community.

It is this declaration that has now become a subject of contention between the rebels and the Congolese government.

While the contention persists, UPDF is handing over the former rebels in their custody to the DRC government. On Tuesday, over 120 rebels were handed over to the DRC government at the army air base in Entebbe.

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