Sultani Makenga – the commander of the M23 rebel group in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo – has surrendered in Uganda, new reports claim.
Sultani Makenga is said to have handed himself over along with hundreds of M23 fighters in the Mgahinga National Park.
Neither government has so far confirmed the reports.
Earlier this week the M23 said it was ending its 19-month insurgency, hours after DR Congo government forces claimed military victory.
Reports say Sultani Makenga and about 1,700 fighters have been disarmed and are being held by the Ugandan military in Mgahinga, near the Congo border.
Earlier this week, Congolese officials said Col. Sultani Makenga had fled across the border to either Uganda or Rwanda.
Sultani Makenga is said to have handed himself over along with hundreds of M23 fighters in the Mgahinga National Park
Uganda has been hosting peace talks between the rebels and the DR Congo government. However, no peace accord has been signed.
Sultani Makenga is the subject of UN sanctions and it is unclear what Ugandan officials would do with him.
The M23 has wrought havoc across eastern DR Congo since it began its insurgency in April 2012.
Its fighters are mostly from the Tutsi ethnic group, a minority in eastern DR Congo but with ties to Rwanda’s leaders.
Their name refers to a 23 March 2009 peace deal which a former militia group – the CNDP – signed with the Congolese government. The rebels said the government had not lived up to its promises in the deal.
Analysts say the surrender of Sultani Makenga , if confirmed, will be a major success for the Congolese army which has been struggling to restore calm in eastern DR Congo for two decades.
Earlier this year the UN approved a new mission of 3,000 African soldiers with a mandate to fight the rebels.
They have the operational support of the existing UN Mission in DR Congo (Monusco) and have used helicopters to target the rebels, allowing the army to advance.
The Democratic Republic of Congo has claimed victory over M23 rebels in the east of the country.
A government spokesman said the last remaining rebels had either fled across the border or surrendered and their weapons had been destroyed overnight.
The M23 have not publicly commented on the claim. Kinshasa earlier rejected rebel calls for a truce.
At least 800,000 people have fled their homes since the conflict began in 2012.
Last week, the UN special envoy to DR Congo, Martin Kobler, said the group was all but finished as a military threat in DR Congo.
The UN has regularly accused Rwanda and Uganda of supporting the M23 although both governments deny the allegation.
The Democratic Republic of Congo has claimed victory over M23 rebels in the east of the country
Last week government forces captured Bunagana, the main base of the M23 on the DR Congo-Uganda border.
But clashes continued on Monday and rebels shelled the town, killing four people. The violence prompted thousands of people to flee into Uganda.
The fighting came a day after M23 leader Bertrand Bisimwa called for a ceasefire to “allow the continuation of the political process”.
Bertrand Bisimwa urged rebel commanders to “ensure the strict observance of this order”.
But Kinshasa rejected the call.
Government forces backed by the UN captured the strategic hilltop of Mbuzi above Bunagana on Monday, then targeted the remaining hilltops where rebels were holed out.
African leaders meeting on Monday in the South African capital, Pretoria, called on the M23 rebels to declare publicly an end to their insurgency.
A statement released after the summit said if they did so a peace agreement could be signed in five days’ time.
Peace talks broke down last month in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, following two months of negotiations.
M23 rebel group, made up of army deserters who are mainly ethnic Tutsis, was named after a 23 March 2009 peace deal signed by the government and a former militia. The rebels accused the government of failing to live up to the terms of the agreement.
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