6 February 2019

Congo-Kinshasa: New Era Beckons for DRC After Rebels Surrender

Kinshasa — THE unprecedented surrender of hundreds of militants and their leaders has raised a glimmer of hope that the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) could at last find peace.

The mass surrender is in support of the new administration under President Felix Tshisekedi.

No sooner had Tshisekedi pledged to uphold human rights and reconcile with other candidates in the December elections than some rebel leaders surrendered.

Such scenes are unparalleled in country that has never enjoyed peace about six decades after gaining independence from Belgium.

The surrender of the more than 700 militia who turned themselves in, in the restive Kasai, is the highlight.

A majority surrendered in Kasai Central, where they laid down weapons such as rifles, machetes and arrows in the Kasai-Central region.

"These 600 militiamen responded to our appeal for peace," Governor Denis Kambayi said.

He urged militia to join other citizens in the country to support the new administration.

"We call on those who are still in the bush to also hand over their weapons," said the governor.

Some 100 other militia and their leaders surrendered earlier.

The surrender is contrast to the reign of Tshisekedi's successor, Joseph Kabila whose over 17 years in power was characterized by rebellions by militia.

Kasai was among the regions worst affected by serious violations by militia groups.

The banditry in the region began in 2016 after government forces killed tribal leader, Jean-Pierre Mpandi, popularly known as Kamwina Nsapu (Black Ant).

The United Nations (UN) estimates 5 000 civilians have been killed and over 1 million displaced, a significant number of them to neighbouring Angola.

Socio-political analyst, Destin Bondo, said the easing of tensions in the Kasai with the surrender of rebel leaders was a major boost to the presidency of Tshisekedi.

"While there are still some sections of the country that still challenge his legitimacy, the surrender of the militia provides him a platform to unite the country," Bondo said.

Tshisekedi's closest rival, Martin Fayulu, has declared himself the winner of the December 30 election.

Another commentator, Marcele Kalenda, however said, "Its early days yet. While this is a glimmer of hope, the issue of militia groups is intricate and linked to a fierce battle for Congolese resources."

Violence led to postponement of elections in some regions in the provinces of Mai-Ndombe and North Kivu. Polls have been rescheduled for March.

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