KINSHASA, 4 February (IRIN) - The
Rwandan-backed Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD-Goma) armed
opposition movement in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has
announced a general amnesty for Mayi-Mayi militias, according to an RCD-Goma
spokesman, Jean-Pierre Lola Kisanga.
He told IRIN on Tuesday that the offer applied to the members of all the factions of Mayi-Mayi militias operating in territory claimed to be under the control of RCD-Goma.
"We are asking the Mayi-Mayi to leave the forests and disassociate themselves from other armed groups targeted by DDRRR [Disarmament, Demobilisation, Repatriation, Reintegration and Reinsertion of foreign armed forces]," he said. "They will not be charged with any crime whatsoever. Rather, it is out of our hope for reconciliation and an end to hostilities that we are offering this amnesty."
Lola said RCD-Goma's 47,000 troops already included 6,500 former Mayi-Mayi fighters who had accepted integration. "Among them there are officers, brigade commanders, lieutenant-colonels and even a general," Lola said.
RCD-Goma said under its offer of amnesty, Mayi-Mayi fighters could choose freely whether to join the rebel army, security services, or police - or to return to civilian life as a civil servant of the movement.
Some Mayi-Mayi factions reacted negatively to the RCD-Goma offer, calling it a disguised means of assimilating their militias.
"The RCD has no place offering us amnesty," one Mayi-Mayi spokesman, Anselme Enurungu, told IRIN. "We will resist the foreign occupation of our territory that hides behind the RCD. We cannot surrender our arms to them, because we are signatories to the [Pretoria] peace accord. All armed groups, including we Mayi-Mayi, will be integrated into a national army due to be formed upon conclusion of this accord. We are all parties to this accord."
The RCD-Goma amnesty offer and call for an end to hostilities follows a similar initiative recently launched by religious leaders. On 13 January, those leaders succeeded in persuading 83 Mayi-Mayi fighters to lay down their arms in Kindu, the capital of Maniema Province in eastern DRC. Thirty-seven of the combatants chose to continue as soldiers, while 46 elected to return to civilian life, the bishop of Kindu and civil society leader, Monsignor Paul Mambe Mukanga, told IRIN.
"We made this appeal to the Mayi-Mayi, because the city of Kindu was starved during the nine months it was blockaded by them," Mambe said. "The offer was made so that we could turn them over to the RCD."
He said the combatants had been accompanied by 81 wives and 89 children.
However, Mambe said the Mayi-Mayi were furious when they learned that the RCD-Goma had confiscated the weapons they had surrendered.
"We denounce the political advantage the RCD wants to make of this, because they came and confiscated the [Mayi-Mayi] arms that had been surrendered to us," said Mambe, who added that this cache included 22 rifles and 24 loaded magazines.
The bishop of Kindu warned that problems remained with regard to Mayi-Mayi fighters who wished to be incorporated into a future unified national army.
"The Pretoria accord only recognises three groups to be integrated into a unified army; the others must do so via one of these three if they wish to be a part of this future national army," Mambe said. "We had hoped that Mayi-Mayi fighters who wished to continue working as soldiers could do so via the RCD."
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