Kampala, Uganda | AFP |
The leader of a Congolese rebel group who had been living under security in Uganda has gone missing, after scores of his fighters escaped their military base, the army said Friday.
The leader of M23, a mostly ethnic Tutsi rebel group which fled Democratic Republic of Congo after being defeated by its army in 2013, went missing shortly after about 60 rebels disappeared from a military base where they had been given shelter.
“No, we don’t know where he is,” army spokesman Richard Karemire said of the M23 leader Sultan Makenga.
“We communicated that to the DRC government as far back as January 16th this year.”
He said Makenga had been living in Kampala under security “to protect him against foreign forces”, but that he had had the freedom to come and go as he pleased.
The Congolese government said earlier this month that at least 200 former members of M23 had arrived from Uganda and occupied a village in North Kivu province.
The Ugandan government admitted that more than 100 rebels had been caught trying to travel to the DRC, and 40 others were unaccounted for. This figure has since risen to 60.
In 2012 former members of a Tutsi militia who had integrated into the Congolese army mutinied, claiming that a 2009 peace deal had not been respected.
The Rwanda-backed M23 rebels wreaked havoc in the east, even managing to briefly seize the regional capital Goma in November 2012.
A year later they were defeated and forced out of the country by a joint UN and Congolese army offensive.
Hundreds of fighters fled to Uganda where they were given shelter under an agreement signed between Kampala and Kinshasa.
On Monday Rwandan officials said 30 people claiming to be members of M23 had sought refuge in the country, saying they were fleeing a DRC army offensive