The Democratic Republic of Congo’s Information minister says the administration has dispatched two delegations led by cabinet ministers to Uganda and Rwanda to help repatriate about 1,500 former members of the M23 rebel group.
The two delegations are scheduled to arrive in the neighboring countries Friday to begin the process of bringing the former rebels back home.
Lambert Mende said the repatriation forms part of the government’s Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) program for former combatants.
“The deputy foreign minister is going to Kampala and the deputy Interior Minister is going to Kigali to follow up [on] all what is necessary for the way back for our compatriot…to [bring] them home because we need them and as President Kabila said, this is the time for peace and reconciliation,” said Mende.
He said the administration has allocated $10 million, and is waiting for international partners to contribute additional pledged funds to ensure the DDR program is successful.
Some Congolese have expressed concern that the former rebels, who have yet to acquire skills that will attract companies to employ them, could rearm themselves and launch another round of rebellion.
But Mende said the administration’s DDR program has been effective. He said more than 5,000 former rebels have been given skill training as part of the government’s bid to re-integrate them into society.
He said the pardoned former combatants would be welcomed back, while those who have committed gross human rights violations and war crimes would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Mende praised the governments in Kampala and Kigali for agreeing to the DRC’s bid to repatriate the former rebels.
Kinshasa in the past has accused Kigali of supporting armed groups including the M23 rebels. The Rwandan government has denied the charge.
The accusations have strained relations between Rwanda and DRC. But Mende called the agreement on repatriation of the former rebels a positive step.
“If our colleagues are welcomed in Kampala and in Kigali to cater for this way back of our compatriots, it is because we did enjoy the support from our counterparts in Uganda as well as in Rwanda. So this is a good achievement for our talks,” said Mende.