New Vision (Kampala)

23 January 2013

Uganda: M23 Accused of Imposing New Leaders, Taxes

Talks to resolve the crisis in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo have collapsed. An agreement was expected to be signed at an African Union ... ( Resource: Congo Peace Talks Collapse at AU Summit

The civil society in eastern DR Congo has accused M23 rebels of replacing leaders and imposing heavy taxes on local communities while peace talks continue in Kampala.

According to AFP, the civil society said that since taking control of North Kivu, M23 is raising taxes and naming their own tribal chiefs in place of legal traditional leaders who have fled.

Etienne Kambale from the federation of civil society non-governmental organisations in North Kivu cited that a man called Makombe the traditional chief of Buhamba sector had been replaced with Rusisi, who escaped from a prison recently.

Also, Benjamin Bonimpa was named administrator of Rutshuru after the rebels seized the territory last July. Also, the legal administrator, Justin Mukanya, now runs a "free" part of Rutshuru, bordering the Lubero territory.

But Jean-Marie Runiga, the M23 leader dismissed the accusations. "These tribal chiefs do their work and we do our own. We can't leave a population without leaders. To say that M23 is shifting traditional power is propaganda (...) these are things that we would never do."

Runiga added, "We take ordinary customs duties and taxes. It's just the same as in the time of the government. The same taxes are still received by us for three reasons - security, the upkeep of the administration and road repairs."

The M23 rebels captured Goma on November 20, but withdrew from Goma two weeks later after the intervention of regional leaders under the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR).

The accusation against M23 comes as the Kampala talks with the DRC government moved into the substantive stage after adopting rules of procedure and agenda.

The talks being facilitated by the defence minister Dr. Crispus Kiyonga aim to find a peaceful solution to the on-going conflict in the provinces of South and North Kivu.

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