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M23 rebels in DR Congo want new demob scheme

Lubumbashi, DR Congo | AFP |

DR Congo’s disbanded M23 rebel movement has called on the government to agree a new demobilisation scheme following deadly clashes near a camp housing former rebels dissatisfied with their conditions.

M23 leader Bertrand Bisimwa said in a statement that the deaths of several people in clashes this week between the army and ex-rebels showed the need for a new disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programme.

“Repetitive serious fatal incidents, the inability of the government to achieve its own programme, poor conditions of life maintained in the demobilisation centres have transformed these places in real jails or in open-air prison where the dead are up to hundreds,” Bisimwa said Friday.

M23 wanted to work with the government to set out a “more realistic” and attractive demobilisation programme for the Democratic Republic of Congo, he said.

But asked by AFP to respond, government spokesman Lambert Mende said “M23 doesn’t exist. We don’t need to respond to non-existent entities.”

Tension had been mounting for days at the military base in Kamina, in the southeast, where more than 2,300 former rebels from various groups are stationed as part of a government disarmament programme.

Toll not clear

After the defeat of M23 in 2013, the government launched a programme known as DDR3 to disarm, demobilise and reintegrate more than 12,000 former rebels.

But the programme, the third of its kind since the end of the Second Congo War in 2003, has been hit by delays and funding problems.

Kamina has previously faced a mutiny from the disgruntled former rebels, who have complained about the living standards on the base.

It was unclear however how many died in this week’s clashes.

A source at the local military hospital who asked not to be identified said Wednesday there had been “some dead” but declined to give a figure.

On Friday, the head of the Bill Clinton Foundation, Emmanuel Cole, told AFP 12 people were killed, nine of them former rebels and three soldiers.

He said the rebels were angry because their food rations had been cut and the integration process was too slow, meaning they faced an uncertain future.

The government however says the only fatality was a soldier.

Mende said the tension rose when rebels demanded to be allowed to leave the camp and return home.

A Western military source said the latest clashes expose the limitations of the DDR3 programme and may deter other rebels from laying down arms and hamper the repatriation of former M23 refugees to Rwanda and Uganda.

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