M23 rebels ask Congolese refugees in Uganda to return home

Internally displaced people from Rutshuru territory in troubled DR Congo's North Kivu Province are seen near the Uganda-DR Congo border post  up following deadly fights between M23 rebels and DRC troops. PHOTO/ROBERT MUHEREZA

What you need to know:

  • Uganda is currently home to over 33,000 Congolese refugees, mostly registered as asylum seekers from March 28-June 22, according to official government data.

Rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) have asked refugees fleeing the conflict torn North Kivu province of the nation to return home.

"I want to tell the Congolese who fled into Uganda to come back home because we are not in Bunagana to destabilize security but to promote peace and stability," the M23 rebel group spokesperson Willy Ngoma said Thursday.

Ngoma also claimed that at least 1,148 Congolese refugees who fled into Uganda early this month had been allowed entry to their nation after successful registration by the militants. 

Uganda is currently home to over 33,000 Congolese refugees, mostly registered as asylum seekers from March 28-June 22, according to official government data.

“Clear registration of Congolese citizens returning home is at the Bunagana border. Their contacts are also collected for easy follow-up and quick response if need arises,” Ngoma said in a press conference from the DR congo side on Thursday.  

Asked if they are ready to vacate areas M23 rebels have captured so far, he said “that would only be on condition that their demands are addressed.”

Leaders of the East African Community Monday issued a communique ordering the militants out of Bunagana.

“We are not an armed group that kills people. Even President Museveni knows our discipline very well because we stayed in Ibanda District in Western Uganda for 4 years. M23 are not violent people. We fight for peace and equality for all Congolese,” Ngoma claimed.

The rebels say they are committed to a peaceful mission and dialogue if engaged by the EAC forces. The M23 also called for authorities in North Kivu to lift a recent ban on commercial traffic through the Bunagana border.

“Such communication from the government is very dangerous. In Eastern Congo, everything comes from Uganda including food and now if it is stopped, what alternative are they giving our people?” Ngoma said.

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