A total of 10 former M23 rebels were formally handed back to the Congolese government by the Uganda People’s Defense Forces.
The handover took place Thursday afternoon at the army’s 2nd Division headquarters in Makenke, Mbarara.
It was presided over by the Deputy Division Commander Col. Fred M. Karara, who represented his boss Brig. Paul Lokech, said to be on state duties in Russia.
Col. Karara said at the function, that four of the 10 repatriated former combatants ran to Uganda after their group was defeated in DRC, while the other 6 escaped from Bihanga Barracks in Ibanda, where the Ugandan army had offered asylum to the rebel group ruminants.
The six, he said, escaped and tried to rejoin the M23, but with constant defeats in Congo, they escaped again and and tried to sneak back into Uganda.
These were arrested from entry points in Bunagana in Kisoro district, charged and they served their sentence at Ndorwa Government prison in Kabale district.
“We could not receive them again since they had abused the hospitality we gave them by hosting them in Bihanga; they were arrested, disarmed, handed over to police and tried in court; a number of them are still serving,” Col Kakara said.
After serving their 6 months sentence, the rebels rejoined their colleagues in Bihanga but later voluntarily asked to go back to their home country.
The ten were formally handed to the Congolese ambassador to Uganda Jean Pierre Masala and today they are expected to be bussed back to their country.
These are; Wo1. Fausten Ndajimana, Cpl. John Paul Nzeyimana, L/Cpl Derrick Munyankusi, Pte. Vincent Rukundo, Pte. Rodgers Kubwima, Pte. Jimmy Nkurinziza, Capt. Frank Jevish Baguma, Capt. JohnBosco Mugisha, Lt. Eugene Abimaana Kiwasha and their commander Lt. Col. Alfonse Mashango Ngabo.
Following the defeat of the rebel group, Uganda agreed to host the rebel reminants as peace talks ensued between the rebels and President Joseph Kabila’s government. It was agreed that that DRC would freely welcome those who wanted to return home without restriction.
Makenke Barrack’s spokesperson Maj. Peter Mugisa revealed however, that the majority of former M23 fighters at Bihanga still don’t want to go home. So far, he said 11 of these have died at the barracks of what he called natural causes.
Ambassador Masala used the handover event to thank President Yoweri Museveni’s commitment to peace in his country and reassured the former fighters that home is now safe and at peace.
“We came here to invite our people to go back home to contribute to the development of our country; the media may be publishing some reports of conflict but I assure you that the situation is peaceful; and in a few months we will be going to elections,” he said.
The ambassador also revealed plans to reintegrate the repatriated fighters into the Congolese army if they wish.
He noted that among 189 of their colleagues who returned home in December 2014, 129 are now integrated into the army and are serving in Benin.
“Those willing will go to serve in the army and the ones who want to go back home we have a process of DDR (Demobilization, Disarmament and Reintegration) through which they will be given resource sthat can allow them to do what they need.”