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Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Cat and mouse games resume in the Great Lakes Region: Uganda to Start Repatriating Ex-M23 Rebels: 1000 ex-M23 rebels escape from Ugandan camp

which other player is missing???? The USA of course


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1000 ex-M23 rebels escape from Ugandan camp 

Publish Date: Dec 17, 2014
1000 ex-M23 rebels escape from Ugandan camp
Some of the repatriated ex-M23 rebels prepare to board a plane back to DRC. Photo by Roderick Ahimbazwe

ABOUT 1,000 former fighters from a Democratic Republic of Congo rebel group broke out Tuesday from a camp in Uganda where they were being held as soldiers were trying to repatriate them, the Ugandan army said.

"A thousand rebels from the M23 (group) have escaped" from the camp in Bihanga, about 300 kilometres (190 miles) southwest of the Ugandan capital Kampala, a spokesman for the Ugandan army said on the official Twitter account.

"They said they were worried about their safety if they were sent back to the Democratic Republic of Congo."

Several of the ex-rebels were wounded by gunshots after those in the camp refused to board army trucks sent in before dawn to take them to the airport, according to M23 chief Bertrand Bisimwa.

A Ugandan officer speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity admitted the operation had encountered "resistance" and confirmed that several in the camp were wounded by bullets.

The Ugandan army said the camp had been holding 1,373 former M23 fighters. An AFP reporter at Entebbe airport saw 120 of them board a plane bound for the DRC.

The Ugandan army spokesman, Lieutenant-Colonel Paddy Ankunda, said via Twitter that troops were now searching for the 1,000 "who escaped the repatriation".

He insisted that "no member of M23 was forced to be repatriated towards the DRC."

But in Kampala, where he lives, Bisimwa disputed that. He said the attempt to return the M23 former fighters to the DRC was "a violation of international law" and of a peace deal reached a year ago between the DRC and the group.

The rebels' 18-month war, during which they briefly seized the key DRC town of Goma, capital of mineral-rich North Kivu province, was brought to an end in 2013 by government troops and UN peacekeepers. The fighters fled into neighbouring Uganda and Rwanda.

They signed papers in May vowing not to fight again in return for a possible amnesty.

M23 leaders last month warned they would fight again should agreements fail. The defeated rebels told AFP of mounting frustrations among the group's confined-to-camp fighters.

While the M23 was defeated, multiple armed groups still operate in a region that has been in conflict for the best part of two decades.

Much of the rebel activity consists of abuses against civilians and illegal exploitation of natural resources such as metals, ivory or timber.

DRC to Start Repatriating Ex-M23 Rebels

FILE - A member of the defunct M23 rebels holds an embassy form that could decide his eligibility for amnesty.
FILE - A member of the defunct M23 rebels holds an embassy form that could decide his eligibility for amnesty.

Democratic Republic of Congo is to start repatriating former M23 rebels from neighboring countries, a government official said on Thursday, a process it hopes will prevent the defeated insurgents from regrouping.

More than a thousand fighters are believed to have fled into Rwanda and Uganda after Congolese and U.N. forces quashed the eastern rebellion in 2013. Most now live in military-run camps awaiting amnesties promised under a peace deal.

“They will leave behind their arms and proceed to the beginning of repatriation,” said Francois Muamba, the Congolese official responsible for overseeing implementation of the deal.
Congo has come under international pressure to speed up implementing the peace deal, which grants amnesties for former rebels who promise not to take part in any future insurrections. It does not apply to those wanted for war crimes.

Muamba said the repatriation mission by a high-level delegation was still awaiting a final approval from Rwanda. Rwandan officials were not immediately available for comment.
Uganda's State Minister for Foreign Affairs Henry Okello Oryem said a Congolese delegation was expected on Friday.

“We gave [Congo] a one-month ultimatum about six weeks ago to come and repatriate their people because they've been maligning us that we're protecting rebels,” he told Reuters.
Oryem said Uganda was hosting 1,430 ex-M23 fighters and had threatened to give them refugee status, which would allow them to circulate freely, something that would concern Kinshasa.
Rwanda and Uganda were accused by U.N. experts of supporting M23 with troops, arms and intelligence during the 2012-13 conflict, though both countries denied it.

In its most recent report, in June, the experts warned that M23 members were escaping from camps in Rwanda and there was growing evidence the movement was regrouping in Uganda.
Some 330 ex-fighters now in Uganda and 229 in Rwanda have so far been amnestied, Muamba said. More would be announced in the coming days, he added.

The former combatants will be sent to the Kamina military base in southeastern Congo to enter a demobilization and disarmament program.

Repatriation in Uganda turns violent

A bid by Ugandan authorities to repatriate former M23 rebels back to the Democratic Republic of Congo has turned violent. Dozens escaped en route to the airport. Ugandan troops were accused of wounding some ex-rebels.
The UN refugee agency said escaped M23 detainees, including some subject to war crimes probes, tried to find alternative refuge in Uganda on Tuesday, saying they feared retribution on return to the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Ugandan military spokesman Ronald Kakurunga said dozens fled into the bush as 120 ex-rebels were being taken by truck to Entebbe airport on Tuesday.

They had belonged to a group of 1,300 March 23 Movement followers kept at a camp at Bihanga in southwest Uganda since Congolese and UN soldiers put an end to 20 months of insurgency in eastern DRC in 2012 and 2013.

At the time, hundreds of people were killed and 800,000 displaced. A regional accord stipulates that fighters suspected of war crimes could still be put on trial.

M23 spokesman Bertrand Bisimwa said Uganda's repatriation move on Tuesday was in "violation of international law."

He said M23 ex-rebels had first wanted firm protection guarantees from the DRC government, based in Kinshasa.
Killings in Beni region

On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch urged the International Criminal Court to probe more recent killings of scores of villagers in DRC's northeastern Beni region.

The UN mission MONUSCO and the army of DRC said that, since Saturday, they had begun a joint operation against a mainly Muslim rebel movement from neighboring Uganda, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).

MONUSCO has a mandate to protect civilians and neutralize armed groups.


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