The Ugandan government has repatriated 57 M23 ex-combatants to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The ex-combatants departed Entebbe International Airport aboard a UN military aircraft Tuesday morning.
The ex-combatants are part of a larger group of M23 fighters who crossed into Uganda with their dependents in 2013 following intense fighting with DRC troops backed by UN forces. They have since lived in Bihanga military camp, Ibanda district in Western Uganda.
Their repatriation is part of the peace agreement involving Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) under the 8th Regional Oversight Mechanism Summit and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region summit signed in October 2017.
The negotiations also involved the United Nations (UN), South African Development Community and African Union.
Robert Masolo, the Ambassador in Charge of Special duties in Uganda’s Foreign Affairs Ministry handed over the ex-combatants to the DRC Ambassador to Uganda Jean Pierre Massala at a function held at Entebbe International Airport this morning.
He told journalists that the exercise is also part of the 2013 Addis Ababa Agreement, which provides for the cooperation framework on ex-combatants in the Great Lakes Region.
In his inaugural speech as DRC president in January 2019, Felix Tshisekedi called upon all combatants in the Great Lakes region to return home so as to build DRC together.
The DRC Ambassador to Uganda Jean Pierre Massala urged the remaining ex-combatants to make a decision of returning home as quickly as possible so as to support the new leadership of the country.
However, neither the Ugandan government nor Congolese Ambassador would tell the exact number of M23 ex-combatants remaining in the country. In September 2017, Uganda repatriated another 10 M23 ex-combatants to DRC.