M23 militants surrender to Ugandan military, surrender weapons

Nov. 7, 2013 at 10:14 AM

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nov. 7 (UPI) -- At least 1,700 former militant fighters in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo have surrendered to the Ugandan military, officials said.

In recent weeks, DRC forces conducted an offensive to drive out M23 rebels from their remaining strongholds near the Ugandan border, ending a nearly two-year rebellion in the African nation.

Uganda's military spokesman, Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda said the majority of the rebel fighters crossed into Uganda on Thursday, a few days after being routed by DRC troops in North Kivu province, The Wall Street Journal reported.

"We have disarmed all the surrendering fighters; we are engaging the Congolese government on the next course of action," Akunda said.

Another senior Ugandan military official said Sultani Makenga, the former M23 rebel commander, was among the fighters who surrendered to the military, the Journal said.

The defeat of M23 rebels has raised prospects of peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, plagued the militants since the late 1990s. However, aid officials told the Journal the region remains volatile because of the presence of several other armed insurgent groups.

"M23's demise is cause for joy ... but there will be no lasting peace until there is a peace process to deal with the refugee, economic, and security issues between Congo, Rwanda, Uganda," Sasha Lezhnev, a senior analyst with Enough Project, a U.S. organization that works to end genocide and crimes against humanity.

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