Leaders of the M23 rebel group in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are pleading with Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni to keep rebel soldiers that fled into his country safe.
Earlier this week M23 announced that it’s laying down arms after an onslaught by the Congolese army FARDC backed by the SADC force intervention brigade. The rebel group fears that its fighters would be handed over to the DRC government, as agreed to by leaders of SADC and the Great Lakes region.
A joint summit of SADC and the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) held in Pretoria on Monday resolved that any country that finds foreign rebel fighters on its soil should apprehend and hand them over to their country of origin.
M23, however, says its "ex-combatants" – who the group says disobeyed their commander’s orders by crossing into Uganda – "feel insecure by a process of disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration under the supervision of the same forces that fought them while refusing any proposal to cease fire for more than a year," according to a letter from M23 leader Bertrand Bisimwa to Museveni.
"They [M23 fighters] are referring here to the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Armed Forces and the United Nations Mission in Congo [Monusco] in conduct of the process," Bisimwa said.
"They remember many massacres that occurred after their demobilisation and reintegration at the end of previous rebellions," he said.
Senior leaders of M23 and some of its members have belonged to several rebel groups before. They were integrated into the FARDC but mutinied early in 2012, accusing Joseph Kabila’s government of not fulfilling all aspects of the peace agreement.
SADC and the ICGLR are expecting M23 and the DRC government to seal and sign a peace deal by next week, after the rebel group denounced the 20-month rebellion and said it would seek a political solution.