M23 leader escapes from UPDF base


The army yesterday said the military chief of the Congolese rebels of M23 has disappeared from his secret base in Kampala where he had been guarded by the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF).

Brig Richard Karemire, the army spokesperson told Daily Monitor that Brig Sultan Makenga disappeared on January 14.

“We don’t have him. He went missing,” Brig Karemire said.

However he did not explain how the rebel leader who had been under UPDF guard escaped from them.

He said the UPDF guards were meant to protect him from harm, but not “denying him freedom of movement”.

This explanation is surprising as it does not answer how the UPDF was protecting Makenga from harm if they could not account for his movements to the extent that he even disappeared without the knowledge of those guarding him.

The Congolese army on Tuesday said an armed group suspected to be M23 had entered DR Congo and captured four crew members of a crashed military helicopter in the eastern part of the country.

The M23 rebels have been living in Bihanga army barracks in Ibanda District after suffering defeat by the Congolese and UN troops in 2013.

However their leader Makenga was relocated to a secret place in Kampala where he had been under UPDF control until January 14 when he escaped from the “protection ring.”

General Leon Mushale, the Congolese operational commander in North Kivu Province, told journalists in Goma on Tuesday that the crew members had been handed over to Makenga who is said to have escaped from Uganda back to DR Congo.

The return of the former M23 combatants may see resurgence of fighting in the eastern DR Congo which had displaced thousands of people.

Congolese opposition politicians have accused the government of exaggerating the revival of M23 rebel group in order to deflect attention from President Joseph Kabila, who remains in power after his official tenure elapsed.

Sources say there is a rift within M23 and one group has gone to DR Congo.

Two weeks ago, Uganda government issued a statement, saying that M23 rebels who had been cantoned at Bihanga Military Training School had been quietly escaping.

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