Security officials have confirmed that about 750 former M23 rebels have escaped from Bihanga Army Training School in Western Uganda where they were being accommodated.
About a week ago the army said the military chief of the Congolese rebels of M23 had disappeared from his secret base in Kampala where he had been guarded by the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF).
Brig Richard Karemire, the army spokesperson told one paper that Brig Sultan Makenga disappeared on January 14.
“We don’t have him. He went missing,” Brig Karemire said.
However he did not explain how the rebel leader who had been under UPDF guard escaped from them.
He said the UPDF guards were meant to protect him from harm, but not “denying him freedom of movement”.
This explanation is surprising as it does not answer how the UPDF was protecting Makenga from harm if they could not account for his movements to the extent that he even disappeared without the knowledge of those guarding him.
The Intelligence Officer at Bihanga Army Training School Capt. Peter Tuhairwe revealed this during the visit of delegation of Defense Attaches from UN, India, USA, Rwanda, France and Tanzania embassies in Uganda.
The team was in Bihanga to check on the situation of the former rebels, and follow up reports of escape. The most recent cases of escape were registered on January 14 and 16 when 60 and 42 former rebels respectively disappeared.
On January 17, 76 escaped and were arrested in Mbarara and were taken back.
According to Capt. Tuhairwe, the Anxiety to return home is the major reason driving most of them to escape, while others are trying to join their commanders.
According to Capt. Tuheirwe 1377 former M23 rebels were relocated to Bihanga Army Training School from Kavera in Kasese on December 10, 2013. Currently there are 391 former rebels at the School, 750 are
absent (escaped), and 19 are admitted at army hospital in Bombo, one is under detention, nine died, 193 were repatriated, seven are on official duty in Kampala and seven are away with permission.
Two weeks ago, Uganda government issued a statement, saying that M23 rebels who had been cantoned at Bihanga Military Training School had been quietly escaping.
The UPDF later said they had intercepted four vehicles in Mbarara District carrying 101 M23 combatants who were travelling back to DR Congo. The army said the escapees had disguised as ordinary passengers but upon interrogation, it was established that they were M23 fighters
The (M23) was a rebel military group based in Eastern area of DR Congo, operating mainly in North Kivu Province led by Col. Sultani Makenga. They were defeated in 2013 by Congolese troops and UN peace keepers.