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Museveni’s dilemma as ex-rebel leader Makenga now runs into his arms

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The surrender of the M23 rebel leader, General Sultani Makenga leaves President Museveni with a major headache: To hand over the rebel leader to ICC over crimes against humanity or hold him for a peace deal. TEA Graphic

The surrender of the M23 rebel leader, General Sultani Makenga leaves President Museveni with a major headache: To hand over the rebel leader to ICC over crimes against humanity or hold him for a peace deal. TEA Graphic 

By GAAKI KIGAMBO Special Correspondent

Posted  Saturday, November 9  2013 at  18:01

In Summary

  • The decision by the rebels to surrender to Kampala effectively makes it President Museveni’s responsibility to either deliver a deal that saves their neck or stand between them and the UN.
  • Should he not hand over Gen Makenga, said Paul Omach, a senior lecturer in international relations at Makerere University, President Museveni is likely to reinforce allegations that the UN’s Group of Experts on DRC made last year — that Kampala and Kigali had backed the rebellion, charges both countries have denied.
  • Yet, should the President, indeed, comply and turn the former rebel chief in, it will leave the Ugandan leader exposed to M23 and its sympathisers, who will feel betrayed that he sowed the seeds that led to the group’s eventual demise when he asked them to leave Goma, which they had captured on November 20 last year.
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Last week’s surprise decision by General Sultani Makenga — hitherto the military head of the vanquished March 23 (M23) rebellion — to surrender may have closed one episode in the unending conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

But for Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni it opens new fault lines that potentially pit him against the runaway rebels, Kinshasa and the UN.

A recent regional resolution from a joint summit he co-chaired compels him to hand Gen Makenga over to the President Joseph Kabila-led Congolese government.

At the same time, his failure to deliver a deal from the talks Kampala has hosted since last December when he persuaded the rebels to withdraw from Goma, the strategic capital of North Kivu region, will erode his credibility with the M23.

As a large column of M23 fighters, including their leader, surrendered to Ugandan forces, President Museveni was making frantic efforts to salvage the Kampala talks — for which a triumphant President Kabila was showing little appetite.

The decision by the rebels to surrender to Kampala effectively makes it President Museveni’s responsibility to either deliver a deal that saves their neck or stand between them and the UN.

Reinforce allegations

On November 4, in Pretoria, heads of state from eight countries and representatives of 12 others from the Great Lakes Region and the South African Development Community agreed “to hand over negative forces to their countries of origin within the spirit of the UN Peace, Security and Co-operation Framework (PSCF) for DRC and the Region.”

The PSCF was signed by 11 heads of state in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa on February 24. It is touted as the blueprint for restoring peace and stability in the DRC, particularly the restive east.

Should he not hand over Gen Makenga, said Paul Omach, a senior lecturer in international relations at Makerere University, President Museveni is likely to reinforce allegations that the UN’s Group of Experts on DRC made last year — that Kampala and Kigali had backed the rebellion, charges both countries have denied.

Yet, should the President, indeed, comply and turn the former rebel chief in, it will leave the Ugandan leader exposed to M23 and its sympathisers, who will feel betrayed that he sowed the seeds that led to the group’s eventual demise when he asked them to leave Goma, which they had captured on November 20 last year.

“The question for Uganda to decide now is: Do you want to have an image in the international community, where you are abiding by international instruments and resolutions, or do you want to be seen as a rogue state?” Mr Omach told The EastAfrican in a phone interview.

“The decent thing for Uganda to do is hand him over to the UN and let them do with him whatever they want. If they charge him, let him prove his innocence.
“Of course there will be some people who will feel betrayed, but what is better; to lose your standing internationally or please some people?”

At present, though, Uganda appears reluctant to hand over Gen Makenga.

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