M23 Outrage over Forceful Repatriation to DRC

The demobilized M23 fighters have expressed “deep concerns” following attempts to forcefully repatriate the movement’s fighters from a Uganda military facility to DRC, and it has emerged.

M23 chairman Bertrand Bisiimwa told Chimpreports on Friday afternoon the move violates the fighters’ human rights and exposes them to possible harassment and execution in DRC.

In a letter to the Head of the Office of the High Commission of the United Nations’ Human Rights, visit this Kampala, there Bisiimwa observed: “We hereby to alert you and express our concerns over the DRC’s Government current approach which violates the international texts relating to the protection of the human rights which the United Nations is the guarantor.”

In the letter dated December 11, Bisiimwa added: “Indeed, a delegation of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Government arrived in Uganda on December 06 before embarking on a forced repatriation of our fighters who are currently stationed at Bihanga military camp and who had found refuge in Uganda since October 2013 while they feared for their safety in Democratic Republic of Congo.”

It remains unclear who took the decision to allow DRC officials to pick M23 members from Bihanga.

However, impeccable sources say the M23 Movement has quietly expressed its discomfort with Uganda’s defence Minister Crispus Kiyonga whom they accuse of being so friendly to the DRC government under President Joseph Kabila.

It is alleged that during the negotiations between M23 and DRC, Kiyonga appeared to be favouring Kinshasa.

The alleged repatriation of M23 fighters occurred at a time when President Museveni was in United Arab Emirates on a four-day state visit.


It is thought some officials exploited this opportunity to facilitate the repatriation of the combatants to DRC.

Bisiimwa said M23 and the DRC Government signed, under the terms of the negotiations held in Kampala, the Declarations of Nairobi on December 12, 2013, providing a mechanism for transitional security arrangements to be rehabilitated for the safety of refugee fighters in Uganda and Rwanda.

“The DRC Government has decided to bypass the process of rehabilitation of this mechanism in the way to undertake the acts of serious violation of human rights thus endangering the lives of the people it would like to repatriate by force to the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” said Bisiimwa.

Army spokesperson Lt Col Paddy Ankunda said he was in Sweden and that he could not immediately give an authoritative comment on the matter.

Ankunda referred this website to his deputy Henry Obbo who was unreachable at the time when we posted this story.

Bisiimwa said, “Although some M23 Movement’s fighters were given amnesty by the DRC’s Government, it is the right of each person concerned to express voluntarily joining the program of repatriation to the country, if that person considers that the security conditions are guaranteed; a right that the DRC Government is deliberately violating.”

He added: “Thus, we hereby seek your (Human Rights Commission) authority for your involvement in this process of the DRC’s Government to ensure the strict respect for the principles of voluntary repatriation as provided for by the provisions of several international institutions that United Nations guarantee through your office.”

M23 rebels were in 2012 forced to flee Eastern Congo due to a joint military offensive comprising troops from South Africa, DRC, Malawi and Tanzania.

They would later sign declarations of surrender in Nairobi, promising to demobilize, lay down weapons and renounce the insurgency.

Kinshasa also undertook to expedite the process of returning Congolese refugees from neighbouring countries and addressing security and economic challenge facing the people of Eastern DRC.

Kabila’s government also promised to release M23 prisoners of war. However, M23 says while it has lived to its commitments, Kinshasa it yet to honour its part of the bargain and wants to forcefully have access to its fighters living in Uganda.

Bisiimwa recently said 10 former M23 fighters were killed in Congolese military intelligence detention centres.

Observers say forced repatriation of M23 fighters could compel many combatants to escape from military facilities in Uganda to force their way back home thus triggering another wave of instability in the region.

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