Ugandan Source says Congo Rebel Commander held in Uganda
Uganda is holding the military commander of Congo’s defeated M23 rebel movement after he surrendered, a Ugandan officer said on Thursday, allaying fears that it could still take up arms again.
Sultani Makenga’s whereabouts had been unclear since Tuesday’s declaration by the M23 that it was ending its 20-month-old insurgency in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, worrying some that he could be hiding with plans to regroup.
His surrender will be seen as a major achievement for the Congolese army, with the backing of a UN force, as it strives to restore calm in a region racked by war for two decades.
But analysts have warned against too much optimism for a sustained peace in the east of the vast nation, where the M23 was only one of several armed groups in the mineral-rich region.
“I can confirm to you Makenga is with us,” the senior Ugandan officer, who asked not to be named, told Reuters.
“He surrendered to us on Wednesday and we’re holding him somewhere and some other commanders of his,” he said, adding the group of rebels would be held at an undisclosed location until a peace agreement was signed.
The DRC government has not commented.
The M23 group declared an end to its military campaign and said it would seek political talks after Congolese troops routed them from their hide-outs with the support of a UN force of African troops with a mandate to intervene.
“We have roughly about 1 500 M23 combatants who surrendered to us. We have disarmed all of them and we’re in the process of documenting and categorizing all their weapons,” said Captain Ronald Kakurungu, army spokesperson for Uganda’s Western region.
That number of 1 500 is higher than most previous estimates of the strength of the M23, which experts had generally believed to have dwindled in recent months to a few hundred. But political analysts said the defeat of the M23 did not mean that a return of order in Congo’s east was assured.
“Just because you think you’ve beaten back the M23 rabble rousers in the east, do you really think it can become a stable country? I don’t think so,” said Martyn Davies, chief executive of the Johannesburg-based Frontier Advisory.
“This time next year, you’ll be looking at an ‘M24’,” said Davies, whose firm advises on Africa and other emerging markets.
The M23, which UN experts and Western powers had said was backed by Rwanda, initially launched its campaign when it said a peace deal with another Tutsi-led group had not been honored by the Congolese government.