Mandela – Myth and Reality opens up debate

SAS, University of London

Mandela:Myth and Reality – a chance for considered reflection

Posted on December 17, 2014 by


Keith Somerville, a senior research fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICWS), who was able to observe at first-hand, developments in South Africa, helped to organise the recent Mandela: Myth and Reality conference. Coming a year after the death of the country’s first black president, it brought together a remarkable group of experts to analyse his contribution to the creation of the new, free South Africa.


By Keith Somerville

On 5 December, the anniversary of the death of Nelson Mandela, the Institute of Commonwealth Studies held a conference which examined in detail the complexities of his legacy as a nationalist leader, his relationship with the South African Communist Party, his management of the transition from apartheid, his record as president and the construction of his powerful media image. The well-attended, day-long event was marked by contending views, informed argument but also mature debate with papers presented by leading African and British academics, people who knew and worked with him, and prominent journalists.

The day started with an artistically powerful and stunning new documentary on Mandela by the South Africa film-maker Khalo Matabane. Utilising archive film and interviews with South African activists, leaders and commentators who knew Mandela, world statesman and, most importantly, young South Africans who grew up in the Mandela era, it shone a bright light on Nelson Mandela the man and the leader, and on the South Africa he left behind.

No punches were pulled in describing the problems and massive inequalities that still mark the country, 20 years after the ANC took power. Young black South Africans talked about the problems of unemployment and the poor living conditions of the majority of black people. Khalo, in his film and answers to the audience’s questions, said that while everyone praised Mandela for his policy of reconciliation, he felt forgiveness had perhaps gone too far and people hadn’t been held to account. Mandela took time to pursue reconciliation when he should have given more attention to raising the living standards of the poor and marginalised.

The day proceeded with a panel on Mandela as a nationalist leader focusing particularly on his relationship with the South African Communist Party and the effects that had on Mandela’s outlook and the development of the ANC. Contending views were put forward by Professors Stephen Ellis, author of External Mission: The ANC in Exile,  Tom Lodge, a biographer of Mandela, and Hugh Macmillan, who has written widely on the ANC and its relations with Zambia and other Africa states, and Moses Anafu, who worked with Mandela during the transition period as Commonwealth head Emeka Anyaoku’s special representative.

Stephen Ellis was clear that Mandela was a member of the SACP Central Committee and felt that the communists had been the dynamic force behind the move towards armed struggle in South Africa. Tom Lodge took a different view and gave a fascinating account of the construction of Mandela’s image. He was less concerned about party membership, while Hugh Macmillan said this concentration on communism was a hangover from the Cold War and that the ANC pushed for armed struggle to compete with the break-away and radical Pan-Africanist Congress. Moses Anafu was clear that in terms of policy and the role of Mandela in the transitional period, his relationship with the party was effectively irrelevant.

While no final agreement was reached on the nature and importance of the communist link, the session was ably summed up by Professor Saul Dubow, who made the point that whether or not Mandela was formally a member of the communist party, what mattered was the effect on policy and ANC actions. His conclusions and the answers to question from the audience, established a good base from which to proceed to the next panel dealing with post-apartheid leadership.

In a wide-ranging session, Dr Desne Maisie, Dr Funmi Olonisakin, Knox Chitiyo and Paul Holden looked at key aspects of Mandela’s presidency and legacy as a government leader, with detailed examinations of the economy and continuing inequality, the problems of corruption in South Africa, Mandela as a leader in southern Africa and his overall style of leadership. Dr Merle Lipton summarised the wealth of material and presented an acute critique of governance and economic management under the Mandela government.

The final session dealt with Mandela’s media image and his relationship with the press. Chaired by Professor Winston Mano, this examination was carried out by former BBC correspondent Peter Biles and Richard Dowden, the Director of the Royal African Society.  Both knew Mandela and covered his period in power, and his retirement.

They stressed how Mandela used charm and his immense personal presence to woo and dazzle the media in a way that often protected him and his government from criticism.

Each session was marked by lively debate and participation from the audience, itself reflecting a wealth of political activism, academic knowledge and journalistic experience. The day offered an excellent opportunity, which was seized eagerly by speakers and audience alike, to open a thorough and, I’m sure, continuing debate on Mandela the man, leader and legend.

The discussions established the parameters for this debate and was valuable in reaffirming the influence, personal prestige and immense political influence that Mandela brought to bear on South Africa, Africa and the last two decades of the 20th century. The reality of what he achieved and the areas where reconciliation took precedence over reconstruction and redistribution of wealth was examined and debated, while the construction of the media image and mythical status was also brought to the fore.

The conference was organised by Keith Somerville and Martin Plaut (both senior research rellows at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies), Dr Sue Onslow and Olga Jimenez. The organisers are grateful to the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation for paying the expenses of Khalo Matabane.  A podcast of the day is available here.

South Africa – SARS purge a gift to the underworld


Sars ‘purge’ a Christmas gift for underworld

 Adriaan Basson, netwerk24

A Sars office in Krugersdorp. (Sars)

Suspects of organised crime seem to be the big winners of a massive “purge” at the SA Revenue Service (Sars),

Beeld newspaper, part of Netwerk24, has in its possession a list of investigations which Sars were pursuing when Tom Moyane, the new Sars commissioner, abruptly closed the unit last month.These investigations include:

- Project Zanadu, investigating the operations of the Mpisi group, which has links with President Jacob Zuma‘s cousin Khulubuse;

- Project Knight Rider, which had to investigate the assets and associated of alleged Czech mafia boss Radovan Krejcir;

- Project Prince, investigating the activities of prince Sam Hamade, who claims to be an “honorary army colonel” and Lebanese prince;

- Project Goldfinger, which investigated Krejcir’s and Hamade’s alleged involvement in gold smelting;

- Ad hoc projects investigating the illegal tobacco industry and Nigerian 419 scams.

Moyane suspended Johann van Loggerenberg, Sars’ head of investigations, last month after an investigation by adv. Muzi Sikhakhane allegedly found that his investigation unit had “illegally” gathered intelligence.

Two weeks ago Ivan Pillay, Moyane’s deputy, and Peter Richer, group head of risk and strategic planning, were also suspended by Moyane because of the activities of the investigation unit.

Questions about the real reasons for the suspensions have been raised after City Press reported on the weekend that Pillay was busy determining how much tax Zuma had to pay for the state’s R246 million upgrade of Nkandla.

READ: Senior officials purged from Sars

The Mail & Guardian reported that Pillay had refused to exonerate the ANC from having to pay customs tax on an order of thousands of T-shirts before the May election.

Pillay and Richer are bringing an urgent application in the Labour Court in Johannesburg on Wednesday to set their suspensions aside. Their removal is regarded as part of a large scale “purge” of the confidants of Pravin Gordhan, former head of Sars, according to a senior official.

READ: Sars head studying rogue unit reports

The court will apparently be informed that the investigation unit houses investigations of “national importance” and that South Africa and the economy will suffer if Moyane’s “purge” at Sars continues.

The Sunday Times earlier this year reported about alleged “illegal” activities of the “rogue” investigation unit of Sars.

Pillay, Van Loggerenberg and Richer are strongly denying these allegations and Beeld understands that a number of complaints in this regard have already been submitted to the press ombudsman.

* For the full article and more news in Afrikaans, visit Netwerk24.

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Read more about:    sars  |  tom moyane  |  tax  |  sa economy

Tanzania’s Attorney-General resigns over graft allegations


Reuters) – Tanzania’s attorney general resigned late on Tuesday, becoming the first political casualty in an energy corruption scandal in the east African country that has led Western donors to delay aid and weakened the currency.

The resignation followed a vote in parliament late last month calling on the government to dismiss senior officials, including Attorney General Frederick Werema, for their role in an energy deal that lawmakers say was fraudulent.

President Jakaya Kikwete has said he will respond later this week to parliament’s resolution, which was binding.

Tanzania is estimated to have 53.2 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas reserves off its southern coast, but its energy sector has long been dogged by allegations of graft.

Lawmakers found that the officials, including the attorney general and the energy minister, fraudulently authorised the transfer of at least $122 million (£77.5 million) of public funds to a private company. The funds came from an escrow account held jointly by state power company TANESCO and independent power producer IPTL and went to IPTL’s owner, Pan Africa Power (PAP) in 2013.

The government officials denied any impropriety in the transfer of the funds, and PAP said the transfer was legal.

In his resignation letter, Werema said he was stepping down “because his advice on the Tegeta escrow account issue had not been understood and had disrupted the country’s political atmosphere,” according to the president’s statement.

A group of 12 international donors have said they will only pay outstanding pledges of budget support worth nearly $500 million to aid-reliant Tanzania if the investigation into the graft claims are published and appropriate action is taken.

The United States warned last week that its award of grants, under a program that rewards countries for good governance, would depend on the government’s anti-graft effort.

Nigeria – oil down to $60 as budget speech imminent


Oil below $60 as FG presents 2015 budget to N’Assembly


Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

International Brent crude oil price dropped to $59.83 per barrel on Tuesday as the Federal Government notified the National Assembly of its intention to present the 2015 budget to it on Wednesday (today) for consideration and approval.

The drop raised fears that the $65 oil benchmark   for the 2015 financial estimates   might be further reviewed downwards.

The Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, is to present the N4.357.96tn budget to the two arms of the National Assembly.

The details of the financial proposal are contained in the Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy document   sent to the Senate by President Goodluck Jonathan.

The government   proposed N627bn out of the total figure as capital expenditure and N2.622tn for recurrent expenditure.

The revised 2015-2017 MTEF showed a sharp reduction in the figure presented in the MTEF earlier sent to the Senate but was withdrawn following the earlier crash of   crude oil price in the international market.

In the first MTEF presented   in September, 2014, the government   had proposed a benchmark of $78 per barrel of crude oil, with an exchange rate of N160 to a dollar.

The total budget figure then was N4.8tn, but when   oil price crashed, the government effected a reduction in the budget benchmark from the earlier proposed $78 to $73 per barrel, with an exchange rate of N162 to a dollar.

The total budget figure in that proposal was N4.7tn but with further fall in the oil prices, the benchmark was also   reduced to $65 per barrel, with an exchange rate of N165 to a dollar for the 2015 fiscal year.

In the House of Representatives, Jonathan’s decision to delegate the minister instead of coming to do the presentation himself led to   protests that could have stalled the budget.

Shortly after the Speaker, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal, had read the President’s letter   requesting the approval of the House for Okonjo-Iweala to present the estimates today, some members raised voices against it.

The House Minority Leader, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, who led the protests said the practice over time was for the President himself to present the estimates to a joint session of the National Assembly.

He observed that since 2013, Jonathan had formed the habit of delegating the minister to do the presentation on his behalf.

The lawmaker argued that while his excuse of being out of the country last year during the budget presentation could be overlooked, his decision to delegate it again this year was questionable.

Gbajabiamila asked , “Why is the minister coming again when the President is very much in the country? The way we are going, we don’t want a situation whereby the parliament will be disregarded to a point where a Personal Assistant to Mr. President will present the budget estimates to us one day.”

The All Progressives Congress legislator   had hardly rounded off his points when the House Deputy Majority Leader, Mr. Leo Ogor, opposed him.

Ogor, a Peoples Democratic Party member, used the cover of the 1999 Constitution to counter the submission of the minority leader.

He noted that while Section I of the 1999 Constitution recognised its “supremacy”, Section 81 specifically mandated the President to “cause” the budget estimates to be prepared and laid before the National Assembly.

Ogor said, “It does not say the President ‘shall’ be the one to present the budget estimates. So, it is inconsequential for the minority leader to come under privilege to argue that the minister cannot do the presentation.”

His position was greeted with applause from the floor, an indication that he gave the correct position of the law.

Tambuwal intervened to further give Jonathan backing by making it clear that the President was not under compulsion to make the presentation personally.

According to the speaker, the President can choose not to observe the “parliamentary tradition” of presenting the estimates in person, adding that his choice of presentation should not stall the estimates.

He said, “The provision (of the constitution) does not say it is the President. Of course, parliamentary tradition expects him to present the estimates, but if he decides to go the other way, we must not be seen to be forcing the President to do so.”

Another APC lawmaker from Kano State, Mr. Ali Madaki, also came up with another point of privilege to argue that the 2015-2017 MTEF must first be approved before receiving the budget estimates from Jonathan.

Madaki’s protest, like Gbajabiamila’s, failed as Tambuwal overruled him.

The speaker explained that while it was the proper procedure to pass the MTEF before taking the budget, in the prevailing circumstances, time was not enough to follow that protocol.

He directed that the minister should go ahead to present the estimates , though the House would, in compliance with the law, first approve the MTEF before considering the budget itself.

Findings showed that Okonjo-Iweala, who rushed to the National Assembly early on Tuesday before the start of sitting, had met with the leadership of the House for over one hour.

The meeting was said to have discussed the “peculiar nature” of the 2015 budget, particularly the challenges posed by tumbling prices of crude oil on the international market.

A member of the House, who attended the meeting, said, “There are revenue challenges and there is the problem of time.

“The budget is already behind schedule; there is crude oil price instability.

“The minister wanted the leadership to appreciate all of this before bringing the budget estimates and to solicit the understanding of the House.”

Jonathan’s letter to the Senate did not attract any opposition from members when it was read by their President, David Mark.

The letter read, “I refer to my earlier transmission to the National Assembly in November 2014 of the revised 2015-2017 Medium Term Expenditure Framework, MTEF, for consideration and approval.

“Given further developments in the international oil market which have necessitated further revisions, amendments have been made to some parameters as well as to some fiscal estimates in the MTEF.

“I hereby forward copies of the revised 2015-2017 MTEF for the kind consideration of the distinguished members of the Senate and hope that it will be considered and approved expeditiously in order to bring 2015 Federal Government of Nigeria budget preparation process to quick closure.”

He   asked the Senate President to accommodate Okonjo – Iweala around 11am on Wednesday (today) to enable her to lay the estimates before his colleagues for   consideration and approval.

Jonathan explained that the unstable oil prices   were responsible for the seeming inconsistency of his administration in the handling of the MTEF and the 2015 budget proposals.

He said that   necessary adjustments would be done in future if the price of crude continued to drop.

He added, “In consonance with the provision of Section 81 Sub-section 1 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended, I write to request that the distinguished Senate grant the Minister of Finance the slot of 11am on Wednesday,   December 17, 2014 to enable her to lay before you, the 2015 budget estimates.

“I am cognizant of the fact that the budget estimates are being presented before the passage of 2015-2017 Medium Term Expenditure Framework, MTEF. This is due to the extraordinary global circumstances that confronted us in the latter quarter of the 2014 fiscal year.

“As you know, the first MTEF with the budget benchmark of $78 per barrel was submitted to the National Assembly on 30th September 2014, and discussion on the MTEF and budget construction based on those estimates began with the relevant committees of the National Assembly.

“However, shortly after that submission, oil prices began to fall precipitously, leading to the revision of the oil benchmark price in the MTEF to $73 per barrel, which was resubmitted to the National Assembly on     November 18, 2014.

“Following this, the decision of OPEC at their meeting in Vienna on   November 27, 2014, not to cut production to support price led to a precipitous fall in the oil price to below $70 per barrel.

“This led one more time to another downward revision of the benchmark price to $65 per barrel and the revised MTEF, which we again submitted to you on   December 2, 2014.

“The uncertainty surrounding the global price of crude oil and its continous fall has occasioned delays in both the submission of the final MTEF and budget estimates. And we thus request your kind consideration of both these items together in view of our national budget calendar.

“We would like to confirm that having submitted these budget estimates, we are not proposing further revision of the oil benchmark price.

“Though prices continue to be extremely volatile at present and to trend further downwards, there are indications based on the price intelligence we have at this time, that prices may range between $65 and $70 per barrel in 2015.

“Nevertheless, we will like to emphasise that there is no ironclad guarantee where oil prices are concerned due to numerous underlining global geopolitical factors that are outside our control and unpredictable. Should prices fall below the range, the country will have to make further adjustments.

“We hope that despite these circumstances, the distinguished National Assembly members will give kind and due considerations to the budget estimates in sufficient time for us to implement the 2015 budget starting early next year.’’

The budget had been a source of debate between the National Assembly and the Executive owing to the oil price benchmark to be adopted.

Investigations revealed that the Federal Government was planning to raise a huge chunk of the nation’s revenue from non-oil sources.

For instance, the MTEF which laid down the assumption upon which the budget is prepared had projected an increase of N243.62bn for non-oil revenue from N3.28tn in the 2014 budget to N3.53tn in 2015.

The sources of government’s non-oil revenue are corporate tax (Company Income Tax, stamp duties, withholding tax, and capital gain tax; Value Added Tax, customs duty, excise duty and fees.

Others are special levies, independent revenues (Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government, operating surplus, dividends and consolidated revenue).

The   government is targeting an increase of N370.95bn in corporate taxes from N986.25bn to N1.357tn.

In the same vein, VAT was raised by N30.48bn from N845.45bn in 2014 to N875.93bn; while Customs Duty, Excise duty and fees on the other had witnessed a decline of N81.85bn from N782.38bn to N700.53bn.

The drop in customs duty, according to analysts, may be as a result of the   government’s backward integration policy which led to the ban on the importation of some items.

Also, the targeted revenue from special levies is expected to drop by N73.93bn from N222.47bn to N148.54bn while independent revenue is also expected to decline marginally from N452.04bn to N450bn.

Okonjo-Iweala had during the announcement of the austerity measures for the economy following the drop in oil prices, explained that efforts had been put in place to strengthen tax administration to get more revenue from the well-off in the society.

She lamented that only 25 per cent of Small and Medium Scale Enterprises are registered taxpayers, noting that remedying that will broaden the tax base.

Also, she said independent auditors only completed three to five audits a year compared to 50 a year in Angola.

Speeding up audits, she added, would help to improve tax collections and anomalies.

On the expenditure side, the minister said that more cuts on spendings would be implemented within the 2015 fiscal period.

However, she assured that more money would be channeled for growth-enhancing projects that would help cushion the impact of the austerity measures on ordinary Nigerians.

Okonjo-Iweala said. “For the immediate 2015 budget, we shall cut certain recurrent spending such as purchase of administrative equipment, overseas travels and trainings, etc.This is the low hanging fruit.

“We shall also complete the work on Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System which has already covered half the agencies and weeded out 60,000 ghost workers saving N160bn.

“Completing this work could save another N160bn. In the medium term, the current pressures provide a unique opportunity for the country to reduce duplication of agencies,commissions and committees within the administration and to restructure and reduce recurrent expenditure, reform public administration and make serious efficiency gains.

“Inevitably, there will also be some cuts in capital expenditure in the 2015 Budget, but this is being done in a way that is pro-poor and pro-average Nigerian. Focus will be on priority sectors of infrastructure, health, education, and security, as well as growth stimulating and job creating sectors like agriculture, housing and creative industries.”

Copyright PUNCH.

South Africa – Zuma denies any link with revenue service suspensions

Mail and Guardian
The Presidency criticised allegations that Jacob Zuma had a hand in the suspension of Sars members, saying the allegations are “pure mischief”.

The Presidency on Tuesday criticised allegations made by Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille linking President Jacob Zuma to the suspension of SA Revenue Service staff members.

“The President has nothing to do with any of the allegations levelled against the staff members of Sars and linking him to this matter is pure mischief,” spokesperson Mac Maharaj said in a statement.

He said some newspapers had also tried to drag the President into the matter. On December 5, Sars commissioner Tom Moyane announced the suspension of deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay and strategic planning and risk group executive, Peter Richer.

This followed the appointment by Pillay of a panel to investigate allegations reported in the media about a special projects unit and its alleged illegal activities at Sars. Sars chief operations officer Barry Hore had also resigned.

Tax compliance
On Sunday, City Press reported that when Pillay read about the costs of upgrades to President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla homestead, he commissioned legal advice on the tax implications.

The advice he received was that such benefits attract tax, even if a property was built on communal trust land, as was the case with Nkandla. According to the report, Pillay read about the sprawl of businesses and trusts linked to the first family and told Zuma they needed to be made tax compliant.

Maharaj told the newspaper Zuma could not disclose all his meetings with individuals, ministers or officials, “otherwise government cannot function”.

On Friday the Mail & Guardian reported that a factor that led to Pillay’s suspension was his refusal to let a consignment of African National Congress T-shirts, imported from China, be released by customs without duty being paid.

Tax evader
In her final newsletter of the year, Zille said law-abiding taxpayers would not tolerate a President who is a tax evader.

“If it is true (as I believe it is) that this conflict is the result of yet another attempt by Jacob Zuma to ‘capture’ a state institution in order to protect himself and the ANC from paying taxes, then it will be a watershed for South Africa’s democracy,” she wrote.

She said Zuma did not want Sars to get too close to his tax affairs and those of his business and political associates.

Pillay and Richer became targets because they insisted that Zuma pay “Nkandla” tax, that the ANC pay its T-shirt customs duty, and that investigations continue into the affairs of Zuma and other top ANC officials. – Sapa


Nigerians displaced by Boko Haram attacks may not be able to vote


Boko Haram could ‘disenfranchise Nigeria voters’

Civilians who fled their homes following an attack by Islamist militants, in Gwoza arrived at the camp for internally displaced people in Yola, Nigeria, on 27 November 2014 The insurgents have targeted Muslims and Christians

At least 1.5 million people displaced by the Islamist insurgency in north-east Nigeria may not be able to vote in elections if the law is not changed, an electoral official has told the BBC.

Discrepancies in the law needed to be resolved in “very good time” or people could be disenfranchised, he added.

Ex-military ruler Muhammadu Buhari will challenge President Goodluck Jonathan in the February election.

Boko Haram’s insurgency has mainly affected opposition strongholds.

Last year, Mr Jonathan imposed a state of emergency in the north-eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe in a bid to curb the insurgency.

However, Boko Haram has stepped up attacks since then and has declared an Islamic state in areas it controls.

‘Staggered voting’

BBC Nigeria reporter Will Ross says it is not clear whether the elections will take place at all in states under emergency rule.

But the Independent National Electoral Commission (Inec) said it was determined to ensure that the elections took place in all parts of the country.

The vote could be held on a staggered basis and areas could be secured with “proper deployment” of the security forces, Inec spokesman Nick Dazzang told BBC Focus on Africa.

Inec was distributing voter cards to displaced people, many of whom were living in camps, but discrepancies in Nigeria’s Electoral Act needed to be “reconciled”, he added.


Who are Boko Haram militants?

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau speaking to the camera in a video the group released on 12 May 2014Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau is the most wanted man in Nigeria
  • Founded in 2002
  • Initially focused on opposing Western education – Boko Haram means “Western education is forbidden” in the Hausa language
  • Launched military operations in 2009 to create Islamic state
  • Thousands killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria – also attacked police and UN headquarters in capital, Abuja
  • Some three million people affected
  • Declared terrorist group by US in 2013

It stated that people could “transfer” their registration to where they were living but it also stated that they needed to vote where they were registered, Mr Dazzang said.

“We are concerned that the way the law is structured now, unless it is amended in very good time, some of them will be disenfranchised,” he told BBC Focus on Africa.

Our reporter says the election is expected to be one of the most keenly fought since the end of military rule in 1999 – and that has prompted some warnings of potential violence.

Nigeria – Uganda starts sending former M23 rebels back but some flee


KAMPALA (Reuters) – Uganda began sending home over a thousand fighters of a Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) rebel group on Tuesday after Kinshasa pressured it to return the refugees so they do not regroup to fight again.

Some 1,430 DRC fighters are believed to have fled into Uganda after Congolese and U.N. forces quashed their rebellion in eastern Congo in 2013. Most live in military-run camps awaiting amnesties promised under a peace deal.

Kinshasa has been pressing Uganda and Rwanda to repatriate the fighters, fearing they could mobilise and start another rebellion in the country’s troubled east.

Congo has come under international pressure to speed up implementing the peace deal, which grants amnesties for former rebels who promise not to take part in any future insurrections. It does not apply to those wanted for war crimes.

“The first batch of 120 fighters from those willing to go back home will be flying out today,” said Paddy Ankunda, spokesman for the Ugandan military.

Ankunda said several fighters had refused to return home and escaped from a military encampment in western Uganda to a U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) camp in the same region.

“We can’t force anyone to go back home, so for those who have escaped, they’re now the responsibility of the U.N.,” he said.

UNHCR spokeswoman Lucy Beck said her agency knew some ex-M23 fighters were headed for the U.N. camp but they would be handed over to a government representative as they are ineligible for refugee status.

“These people will not be considered for refugee status as they are ex-combatants and have been involved in fighting,” she said.

A Congolese delegation arrived in Uganda early this month to discus the rebels’ possible repatriation.

U.N. experts have accused Uganda and Rwanda of supporting M23 with troops, arms and intelligence during the 2012-13 conflict, but both countries denied any involvement.

In its most recent report released in June, the experts warned that M23 members were escaping from camps in Rwanda and there was evidence the movement was regrouping in Uganda.


Congo M23 rebels ‘on the run in Uganda ahead of handover’

Members of the former Congolese M23 rebels sit at a compound in Uganda's Bihanga Training School, about 380km south-west of the capital Kampala, on 7 February 2014 Hundreds of former M23 fighters fled to camps in Uganda and Rwanda after their defeat in November 2013

More than 1,500 Congolese ex-rebels have gone on the run in Uganda ahead of their handover to the Democratic Republic of Congo, the group’s leader, Bertrand Bisimwa, has told the BBC.

The M23 president said they had left a camp where they were being held because they feared returning home.

They had fled to Uganda a year ago after being defeated by the Congolese army and UN forces.

However, Uganda’s army spokesman has denied that most of them are missing.

‘Neighbouring hills’

The BBC’s Catherine Byaruhanga in Uganda says a Congolese government delegation was in the capital, Kampala, earlier this month to negotiate the former fighters’ return to DR Congo, where the authorities have said they will be demobilised and reintegrated into society.

They are not believed to be armed, she says.

Mr Bisimwa said the estimated 1,600 ex-fighters who had been staying at the military training school in western Uganda since November 2013 were due to be handed back to the authorities in DR Congo on Tuesday.

But when Ugandan army trucks arrived to pick them up in the morning they ran away into the neighbouring hills, leaving only a handful who were sick, he said.

Congolese government spokesman Lambert Mende told the BBC that he did not know how many of the former fighters had escaped, but a number of them were on their way to Kampala to be transferred.

Some 800,000 people fled their homes in eastern DR Congo during the 20-month M23 insurgency.

At the time the UN accused Rwanda and Uganda of backing the rebels – charges both countries denied.

An accord to end the rebellion stipulated that former fighters, who had gathered at camps in Rwanda and Uganda, would be granted an amnesty on their return to DR Congo.

It also said the leaders of the group should be returned to face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.