M23 Have Been Escaping From Bihanga – Government Admits

M23 rebels are reportedly fleeing the Bihanga Barracks

Government has finally admitted the former Congolese based M23 rebels held at Bihanga Military Training School in Ibanda District are escaping from the camp.

Government in a statement today informed the international community that the rebels in their dozens have been rapidly escaping from Bihanga.

The government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo in the statement says the rebels are “quietly escaping into the general public and to unknown places.”

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This he says is in contravention of the 2014 agreement signed between government, hospital the rebels and the DRC government.

Opondo however doesn’t mention and it remains unclear why the former combatants are eager to leave the Bihanga camp.

Last night, seek 101 of these, Opondo says, were intercepted by security in four vehicles at Mbarara. These were traveling to the DRC according to the government mouthpiece.

“These had disguised themselves as ordinary travelling passengers upon interrogation, it was established that they were part of the M23 former combatants who had been cantoned at Bihanga Barracks. These were stealthily leaving their gazetted place of abode contrary to the Agreement of 2014 and the protocols signed with the DRC Government,” said Opondo.

The escapees are currently detained at Makenke Barracks, the second division Headquarters near Mbarara town.

Just a week ago, another group of 40 former M23 fighters were discovered to have escaped and their whereabouts are still not known.

Government through the Internal Affairs Ministry initially denied the escape allegations and accused the DRC government of trying to shift public attention from the political crisis in Kinshasa.

Reports of M23 escaping from the Bihanga Barracks first emerged in 2014 when over 1,000 of them broke out of the camp and fled.

It was later established that these ran away because they didn’t want to be repatriated back to the DRC, an arrangement that was already in offing.

Last year, when asked why it had taken long for the rebels to be sent back home as per the agreement, President Yoweri Museveni said the rebels refused to go home and that he didn’t know why.

“I have no idea why they are not going back; we discussed with (President) Kabila and he told me that they had done all the concessions that were needed, but that they were not going back,” Museveni said.

“I am going to ask them directly, why if all the guarantees have been put in place and then we shall inform the Congolese government.”

According to Mr Ofwono Opondo, there are 270 former M23 combatants still cantoned at Bihanga.

“We would like to restate our commitment to live by the agreements and obligations that were entered into in 2014,” he said.

“Uganda will not and does not support any armed activities to distabilise the Democratic Republic of Congo.”


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