M23 combatants relocated from border district

Two weeks after fleeing to Rwanda, a group of 682 fighters affiliated to DRC’s M23 rebel movement, have been moved to Ngoma district in Eastern Province, away from the Rwanda-DRC border.

Two weeks after fleeing to Rwanda, a group of 682 fighters affiliated to DRC’s M23 rebel movement, have been moved to Ngoma district in Eastern Province, away from the Rwanda-DRC border.

The rebel fighters crossed over to Rwanda following fierce fighting between two factions of M23.

An internal conflict within the group’s ranks saw separate factions created, with one group led by Sultani Makenga, and the other by Jean Marie Runiga.

The fighting that ensued between forces loyal to either faction saw those on Runiga’s side overwhelmed, hence fleeing into Rwanda. Runiga also fled to Rwanda.

Upon arrival in Rwanda, the rebels were disarmed and secured in Mudede sector, Rubavu district, which borders the DRC.

Speaking to The New Times, yesterday, the Minister of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs, Seraphine Mukantabana, said international norms dictate that in a situation armed rebels cross into another country, they are supposed to be relocated to a place far from the borderline of their country.

“This is why we are taking them to Ngoma in a transit facility where they will stay for about five months,” she said.

Renunciation


The minister said the rebels are expected to sign a written renunciation upon arrival in Ngoma. “We opted that they renounce their military activities in writing.”

She, however, added that prior to the renunciation, there will be a screening exercise where minors will be identified and separated from others.

“After the renunciation, they will be eligible to apply for refugee status individually, those who will be allowed in as refugees will be handed to the UNHCR, but at the moment, they are considered citizens of the international community,” Mukantabana said.

She said leaving the Ngoma facility will be a gradual process depending on the ranks the rebels held. Those with lower ranks, according to the minister, will leave earlier than their senior comrades.

Mukantabana also expressed frustration with the international community for not supporting Rwanda in managing the influx of rebel fighters into the country.

“The international community has ignored and adamantly decided not to support us in managing this crisis. These are not our citizens, neither are they our prisoners, they belong to the UN,” she said.

“It is now upon the UN to provide other requirements for the refugees,” said Mukantabana.

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