M23 rebels terrorise Ibanda, escape back to Congo

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Sultan Makenga and his men

Former March 23 Movement, often abbreviated as M23 and also known as the Congolese Revolutionary Army, has embarked on a career of crime, according to locals in Ibanda district.

Over 300 former anti-Congo president Joseph Kabila insurgents are hosted at Bihanga Military Training School in Ibanda district.

According to locals, these former combatants have now resorted to stealing property from them.

Angry residents tasked the office of the Resident District Commissioner [RDC] to restrict the former fighters to the military training school.

Julius Masiko, a resident of Kanyarugiri in Nyamarebe Sub County told Uganda Radio Network [URN] that the ex-combatants often invade people’s gardens and steal crops and that they are always engaged in fights at bars.

Another resident Scovia Maniragaba says that the ex-combatants should be confined within the military training school in order to co- exist peacefully with the locals.

Ibanda RDC Elias Akatuhebwa told URN that his office has received complaints from people living in the area and has been engaging the leadership at the military training school for a solution.

The Ex-combatants sought refuge in districts neighbouring the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2013 after a ceasefire agreement that ended their activities and control in Goma.

Escape back to Congo

A new United Nations report on Congo says M23 rebels and group leader Gen Sultan Makenga have re-established command bases in Congo forests.

The UN Group of Experts on Congo insecurity was submitted to the president of the United Nations Security Council dated August 10, 2017.

Of the 1,375 ex-combatants who arrived in Uganda in 2013, only 270 remained in February 2017 while rest escaped from Bihanga camp.

Ugandan security forces intercepted 101 escapees in Mbarara on 18 January 2017. From Bihanga, most ex-M23 took buses towards Mbarara, before arriving in the area of Kisoro.

The 150 escapees are said to have camped at Mount Sabyinyo led by Makenga, Lt. Colonel Léon Kanyamibwa, Colonel Yusuf Mboneza and Erasto Bahati.

From Mount Sabyinyo, the main part of this armed group moved south and established camps inside Virunga National Park just South of Mount Mikeno.

The group also reported that on 27 January 2017, two FARDC Mi-24 helicopters crashed at the southern flank of Mount Mikeno while searching for suspected ex-M23 positions in the area.

They also established that despite the losses, FARDC dislodged the ex-M23, killing four and capturing three; the rest fled, 30 of them crossing to Rwanda unarmed and on 29 January they were granted temporary refugee status by the Government of Rwanda.

“The remaining ex-M23 combatants moved back north towards the Sabyinyo area where they merged with about 70 elements that had arrived from Uganda in the first half of February. With a total of over 150, this group reorganized into three “companies”, one of which remained near Sabyinyo, one near Bunagana and the third attempted to move towards Masisi territory,” the report says.

On 21 February 2017, FARDC attacked the ex-M23 near the localities of Songa and Karambi.

They met little resistance and over 50 ex-M23 moved towards Kitagoma on 22 February before they fled back into Uganda where at least 42 of them were arrested by the Uganda People’s Defence Forces, including Lt. Colonel Ezechiel Mikekeno and Colonel Eric Ngabo.

 

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