Thursday, 7 November 2013

DR Congo's M23 rebel chief Sultani Makenga 'surrenders'

By BARBARA AMONG in Kampala | Thursday, November 7  2013 at  18:10
The commander of the M23 rebel group in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Col Sultani Makenga. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 
The commander of the Congolese M23 rebels Thursday handed himself and 1,500 of his fighters over to the Ugandan army.
Sources said Col Sultani Makenga surrendered along with hundreds of M23 fighters in the Mgahinga National Park, in Kisoro District, Western Uganda.
“Yes, it is true that we have him. He surrendered with 1,500 fighters,” said Uganda army sources.
The government was yet to confirm if Col Makenga was with the Uganda army.
Early this week, Col Makenga renounced rebellion after his group suffered a defeat to UN-backed government forces.
He called on his fighters to demobilise.
The move has given hope to achieving peace in the war-ravaged eastern DR Congo.
Col Makenga is the subject of UN and US sanctions and it was unclear what Uganda would do with him.
Human rights abuses
He is accused of masterminding killings, sex attacks and abductions and recruiting child soldiers.
Sources, however, said the plan was not to hand him over to the DR Congo government, but to follow the procedures spelt out in the Kampala agreement, which spelt that the M23 fights would be disarmed, demobilsed and reintegrated into the Congolese nation army (FARDC)
Uganda has been hosting peace talks between the M23 and the Kinshasa government. However, no agreement has been signed.
Presidents from the Great Lakes region and SADC, meeting early this week in Pretoria, South Africa, demanded that the M23 publicly renounce rebellion and called on the Kinshasa and the rebels to sing a peace accord.
The UN has accused the M23 rebels of gross human rights abuses in eastern DR Congo since it began its insurgency in April 2012. The rebels vehemently deny the claims.
The M23, made up mostly of ethnic Tutsis, has been most active in last 20 months.
US and other donors have cut aid to Rwanda, accusing it of backing the M23.
Rwanda denies the charges
At least 10 other armed groups still operate in eastern DR Congo
They often make money by controlling the trade in the region's minerals such as gold, tin and coltan.