Congo M23 rebels surrender in Uganda, official says

A Ugandan military official reports the rebel group commander and over 1,500 fighters are now being detained near the Congolese border.

Jerome Delay/AP/File
In this Nov. 30, 2012 file photo, M23 rebels withdraw from the Masisi and Sake areas in the eastern Congo town of Sake, west of Goma, Congo.

The top commander of Congo's M23 rebel movement and about 1,700 of his fighters surrendered to Ugandan authorities following defeat by Congolese troops, a Ugandan military official said Thursday.

The move raised hopes the rebels might sign a peace settlement after 19 months of a brutal insurgency that displaced thousands of people in eastern Congo's North Kivu province.

M23 commander Gen. Sultani Makenga and his fighters were being held by the Ugandan military in Mgahinga, a forested area near the Congolese border. The rebels had been disarmed and were being registered by Ugandan officials, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to give this information.

Makenga, the M23 commander, is the subject of United Nations sanctions. The United States also has imposed a travel and asset ban on him for his alleged use of child soldiers in his rebellion.

"Makenga should be arrested and immediately brought before the courts," North Kivu Gov. Julien Paluku told The Associated Press. "He should be made to answer for his actions in eastern Congo."

The senior Ugandan official who spoke to The Associated Press about Makenga's surrender said the rebel leader and his fighters would be under Ugandan protection until regional governments, including those of Rwanda and Congo, agree on how to deal with "negative forces" in the region.

This week the M23 rebels lost control of all the territory they once held following an intensified offensive by Congolese troops who are backed by UN forces. After their last major stronghold fell last week, the rebels appeared to flee from the border town of Bunagana to the surrounding hills and forests. Earlier this week the rebels' civilian leader, Bertrand Bisimwa, announced the rebellion was over, saying he wanted to work with Congo's government toward finding a political solution to violence in eastern Congo.

A group of international envoys to Africa's Great Lakes region, including US envoy Russ Feingold, has been urging a political solution to the eastern Congo's crisis and urging both parties to reach a negotiated peace accord. Under the banner of a regional bloc, Uganda has been hosting peace talks between the rebels and Congo's government. Although those talks have repeatedly stalled since December, there were signs a final accord may now be signed after Congolese troops militarily defeated the rebels.

Feingold said Wednesday that an agreement between M23 and Congo's government "has been worked out in great detail" and could be signed by both parties within days. But the deal offers no amnesty for rebels who face serious criminal charges, he said.

"That is not happening in this case if this agreement goes through the way I believe it will go through, and certainly, the international community and the United States would not support such an agreement," Feingold said, talking about blanket amnesty for rebels. "I also believe that the Congolese government would never sign such an agreement this time."

M23 launched its rebellion in April 2012, becoming the latest reincarnation of a Tutsi rebel group dissatisfied with the Congolese government. M23 was created after officers from the Congolese army defected in April and May, demanding better pay, armaments and amnesty from war crimes. The rebels accused Congo's government of failing to honor all the terms of a peace deal signed in March 2009 with M23's precursor group, the CNDP.

A report by UN experts has said neighboring Rwanda, whose president is also Tutsi, provided weapons, recruits and training to M23 rebels. That report also said some in Uganda's military supported the rebels. Both Uganda and Rwanda deny the allegations.

M23 had been substantially weakened in the past year by internal divisions and waning Rwandan support. The Congolese military capitalized on these rebel setbacks by pushing ahead with new offensives beginning in August that were supported by a brigade of UN forces with a mandate to attack the rebels.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Congo M23 rebels surrender in Uganda, official says
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today