The Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) information minister says Kinshasa is seeking the extradition of M23 rebels who fled to neighboring countries following recent clashes with the national army (FARDC).
Lambert Mende says the request is part of a government effort to end armed insurgencies.
“We need to fight impunity among the few [rebels] who have criminal records,” said Mende. “Secondly, we need to give a chance to others who are not criminals to re-insert themselves socially and professionally. This is for us the only way to avoid the restart of insecurity in the region.”
Mende’s comments came after the FARDC recaptured the country’s eastern town of Bunagana, one of the last remaining strongholds of the M23 rebels.
The conflict, officials say, has displaced thousands of civilians, some of whom have fled into neighboring Uganda. The U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) says it expects the number of civilians seeking shelter in Uganda to swell to 10,000 by the end of Wednesday.
Mende said the administration will help returning Congolese citizens rebuild their lives in North Kivu province. The government is working with its international partners, including the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), to provide assistance to the victims of the conflict.
“Our North Kivu governor [has been] busy since yesterday organizing their way back home,” said Mende. “We are also working with the UNHCR as well as with the neighboring governments to organize [their return]. Their place is at home, and we shall help them rebuild their homes and restart any activities to rebuild their lives.”
Mende said the government wants to establish the rule of law in the restive parts of the country including the North Kivu province where armed groups often attack unarmed civilians and ransack their villages. He also said the administration seeks to bolster security in the areas where the FARDC drove out the M23 rebels. Mende said residents in the areas formally held by the rebels have confidence in the national army.
“You could witness how many are coming back and how they are welcoming our troops. They are confident [in] their government, of their country and of the army,” said Mende. “I think they know that we really are willing to work to [protect] this area, and they didn’t wait [for] any call and they are coming back in their thousands since yesterday.”