Thursday, November 7, 2013

M23 Rebels Accept Defeat, Surrendering to Uganda

After over a year of conflict, there is likely a sigh of relief today in the Congo as the infamous M23 rebel group and their leader surrendered in Uganda earlier. General Sultani Makenga and approximately 1,700 of his rebel troops surrendered following peace talks that have not been successful in securing a cease-fire – Uganda has been in charge of brokering peace between the Congolese army and the rebels since peace talks began. Most likely, Makenga chose to surrender across the Ugandan border for fear of prosecution in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with hopes that Uganda would not extradite him. Makenga is subject to numerous UN sanctions, and is considered a wanted man by the United States government for his alleged use of child soldiers in his rebel movement.

Sultani Makenga

M23 began their campaign against the Congolese government in April of last year, and at the height of their power, had taken over several major cities in the Congo. A death toll is uncertain, but what is certain is that, like other similar situations in Africa, this conflict resulted in untold misery for thousands of families all across the region. The conflict even drew the ire of the international community when a UN report alleged that Rwanda had been secretly providing aid in the form of weapons and food to the rebels. M23 is comprised primarily of Tutsis, who were massacred by the Hutu majority in Rwanda in 1994; therefore, the M23 rebels were seen as a significant threat to the wellbeing of the Rwandan government.

On a continent where such rebel groups flourish, often unabated by international forces, the prospect of peace after nearly two years of conflict should be viewed optimistically here. Despite the surrender, both parties must still sign a peace agreement, but that is expected to be relatively painless and come sometime this weekend. The question that remains is how Uganda will deal Makenga – turning him over to the DCR would likely result in a death sentence for him, but he may also face war crimes charges at the ICC should he come into their custody. For now, however, this is good news for a wartorn region – news that is rare and should be celebrated as a peace agreement is forged.

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