Over 800 members of the defunct rebel group, M23 that were under Uganda Peoples Defence Forces Protection at Bihanga military camp in Western Uganda have escaped.
The rebels, who have been at the camp awaiting handover to the Congolese government for amnesty, fled the camp this morning to the United Nations – run Rwamwanja refugee camp. Notable among the escapees is the military leader Colonel Sultan Makenga.
UPDF spokesperson Paddy Ankunda said that some rebels had fled to Rwamwanja refugee camp where they reported to the UN that they don’t want to be repatriated. He however adds that the UPDF will send the first batch of rebels -120 in number – to the DRC government for amnesty.
Calls to the administrator at Rwamwanja refugee camp went unanswered.
The rebels have in the recent weeks expressed concern over the manner in which their amnesty has been handled.
M23 political head Bertrand Bisiimwa said the M23 rebels will pull out of the Nairobi declaration forum where they denounced war if the Congolese government doesn’t respect earlier agreements that were signed by them.
M23 sources said that they were unhappy that some of their members had been killed under unclear circumstances following their return to DR Congo for amnesty.
They named Bonane Rwamakuba Gahene, who was the head of the Bweza arm of the rebel group whom they allege was beheaded on 28th September at Rubare by DRC army officials and Felix Shamba, an administrator who was killed under unclear circumstances on October 19th at his home in Rutshuru.
The alleged wipe out of the leaders of the M23 movement has been heavily denied by the government in Kinshasa. Lambert Mende the government spokesperson in Congo has been quoted by Reuter’s news agency denying any killings of the M23 leadership that had offered themselves for amnesty in DR Congo.
The M23 movement is notable for staging a five year rebellion against the DRC government over refusal by the government to integrate them into the Congolese army. During the conflict, M23 threatened to overrun the Kinshasa government when they cut off Eastern DRC and controlled it for two months.
They however denounced war following increased international pressure and handed themselves over to the Ugandan government.
They have been staying at Bihanga Military camp form where they were set to be repatriated to DRC today.