KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Scores of Congo's M23 rebels fled the Ugandan camp where they were being held ahead of repatriation to Congo, their leader and a Ugandan military official said Tuesday.
Ugandan military officials planned to airlift hundreds of the former rebels but many resisted the deportation, saying Congo's government had not honored the terms of a peace deal signed last year, said Bertrand Bisimwa, the civilian head of M23.
Many of the ex-fighters fled into the mountains surrounding the Bihanga military camp in western Uganda when trucks arrived to take them to an airbase, he said. Some of those fleeing were shot and wounded, he said.
"They can't go back to Congo," said Bisimwa, who spoke by phone from Kampala, Uganda's capital, where some of the M23 leaders are based. "If they go back they will be killed. They have no protection there."
Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda, the Ugandan military spokesman, confirmed Tuesday that some M23 members escaped from Ugandan military custody and tried to hide at a nearby refugee camp.
M23 used to be the most prominent rebel group operating in eastern Congo before it was repulsed by U.N. forces fighting with the Congolese national army. More than 1,000 rebels fled to Rwanda and Uganda last year before their leaders signed a peace agreement with Congo's government last December.
Under that agreement, the rebels who fled to neighboring countries were to be repatriated back to Congo within a year. That has proved difficult to achieve because of questions over an amnesty. The M23 rebels want a blanket amnesty but Congo's government insists some must be tried for crimes committed in eastern Congo.