Seven members of the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which has been fighting Ugandan Government forces for two decades, have surrendered to the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and agreed to enter a disarmament, repatriation and reintegration scheme.
The seven combatants were escorted on Wednesday by blue helmets from the UN mission (known by its French acronym MONUC) in Ituri district and flown to the city of Bunia a day later for repatriation to Uganda, the mission reported today.
“These LRA elements have pledged to inform their counterparts, still waiting in the bush, that it is safe to surrender to MONUC and repatriate to Uganda, once they are reassured as to the commitment of the Ugandan authorities to treat them according to the terms of the DDRRR programme,” the mission said in a press statement,.
MONUC has set up a programme of disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, reintegration and reinsertion for LRA fighters living in the northeast of the DRC so that they can smoothly transfer back into Ugandan society.
Last month a senior LRA commander, Patrick Opiyo Mayasi, and his wife also gave themselves up, along with their weapons and ammunition, to Congolese border police.
The LRA, which has fought a civil war with the Ugandan Government since the mid-1980s, became notorious during the conflict for abducting as many as 25,000 children and using them as fighters and porters. The children were often subject to extreme violence shortly after abduction, with many girls allocated to officers in a form of institutional rape.
In October 2005 the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued its first-ever arrest warrants against five senior members of the LRA: the leader Joseph Kony, and the commanders Vincent Otti, Okot Odhiambo, Dominic Ongwen and Raska Lukwiya.
Last year, the Government and the LRA agreed to a cessation of hostilities, but disputes between the two sides had dampened hopes of a more comprehensive peace accord and many LRA members continue to hide out in southern Sudan or the northeast of the DRC.