Over 500 Members of the defeated M23 rebel movement have today signed Amnesty forms implementing a peace pact signed in Nairobi last year.
The signing ceremony comes two months after Joseph Kabila, the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, announced an amnesty for former members of the group.
The amnesty covers “acts of insurgency, acts of war and political offenses” committed in the DR Congo 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.
The developments today mark the conclusion of yearlong peace negotiations in Kampala mediated under the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR). The M23 rebellion started off in April 2012 against the DRC government in North Kivu.
Dr. Fior Muyinda, the head of budgeting and economic planning for M23 described the day as great. He says this day is a turning point in the DRC peace process
Dr. Fior Muyinda adds that on top of M23 there are several other groups that have been fighting against the Kinshasa administration that are signing amnesty forms.
The M23 rebels say they are ready to return home and are confident that after 11 months of peace talks taking place in Kampala, there is no reason to doubt the direction of the peace process.
Due to the infighting between the M23 and the DRC government in 2011 to 2013 thousands of Congolese refugees fled to Uganda upping the number of refugees at 184,000. Many are now returning home with news that the war has ended.
Dr Fior says one of the reasons they were fighting was to see their nationals return home.
Elie Mutela wa Mutela the Cabinet Director in the M23 President’s office says they expect support from the International organizations that have been mandated to support the return and integration process of the former fighters as they return home.
The organizations include MONUSCO, International Conference on the Great Lakes Region and the Southern African Development Community.
Mutela wa Mutela, who puts the number of those who have signed the forms at over 500, adds that the peace pact they signed in Nairobi allows them to form a political wing from a fighting rebel group through which they shall make their demands.
The Group led by Sultan Makenga was defeated in November, 2013 after government forces launched an assault on rebel positions in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The offensive occurred one day after insurgents called for a ceasefire and decided to pursue their goals through political means.
The offensive occurred one day after insurgents called for a ceasefire and decided to pursue their goals through political means. They group which once made up the strongest army in the mineral-rich but impoverished Kivu region, has since lived in a camp in western Uganda.
They were granted a grace period of six months starting February 2014 to approach the government and vow “in writing, on their honor, not to commit any acts that come under the present amnesty.