Congo's M23 rebel chief Makenga in Ugandan hands

Thursday November 7 2013

Congo's M23 rebel chief Makenga in Ugandan hands

M23 rebel leader Sultan Makenga. File photo 

By AFP

Kampala - Democratic Republic of Congo's M23 rebel chief Sultani Makenga is being held by Uganda's military, a senior officer said Thursday, after his insurgents suffered a crushing defeat to UN-backed government forces.

"He is with our forces, yes, Makenga has crossed into Uganda with some of his men, he is with us," a senior Ugandan military officer told AFP, but refused to clarify if he had formally surrendered or was under arrest.

However, his presence in Uganda calms fears he would fight on against government forces in the volatile east of the country.

Makenga, 39 and a former colonel in the DR Congo army, is accused of masterminding killings, sex attacks and abductions and recruiting child soldiers, and is on both UN and US sanction lists.

The Ugandan officer said "several" M23 troops had accompanied him, but would not give an exact number.

Congolese troops backed by a UN intervention brigade launched a major offensive late last month against the M23 movement of army mutineers in North Kivu.

The M23 was founded by ethnic Tutsi former rebels who were incorporated into the Congolese army under a 2009 peace deal but mutinied in April 2012, claiming that the pact had never been fully implemented.

After briefly seizing the regional capital and mining hub of Goma last November, the M23 entered into fresh peace talks which fell apart last month, leading the Congolese army to go on the attack in a bid to end the rebellion.

The United Nations and rights groups have accused the M23 of atrocities including rape and murder in a conflict that has caused tens of thousands of refugees to flee.

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