A top chief who led a coalition of armed militia groups has surrendered in the central Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of Congo with hundreds of youth fighters, according to local authorities.
Chief Ndaye Kalonga Nsabanga, who turned himself in on Saturday with many followers, was active in the troubled Kananga area.
“It’s thanks to negotiations that he agreed to hand himself over,” the vice president of Kasai Central province, Manix Kabwanga Kabwanga, told AFP on Sunday, September 16.
“We have realized that military and police operations cannot eradicate these armed groups because they blend into the population,” Kabwanga said.
“Of the eight militia leaders who have been identified, seven surrendered this Saturday to [a] delegation led by the provincial minister of the interior,” he added.
Some 600 youths presented as militia fighters also turned themselves in, with eight AK-47 assault rifles, 45 12-gauge shotguns and a number of clubs, as well as amulets, according to a military source.
“The hardest part is still to come,” vice-governor Kabwanga said. “It’s the process of socially reintegrating all these militiamen.”
While the ceremony took place, another armed group attacked an army post 15 km (nine miles) from Kananga. Three soldiers and a civilian were killed in the raid, said an army source who asked not to be named.
In August 2016, violence erupted in parts of Kasai between the security forces and armed supporters of a prominent chieftain known as Kamwina Nsapu, whose authority was not recognized by the government.
Further attacks and clashes claimed more than 3,000 lives and displaced 1.4 million people between September 2016 and mid-2017.
DRC rebels on offensive in South Kivu province
Meanwhile, Congolese troops were facing an offensive by rebels in the eastern province of South Kivu on Sunday, September 16, military and civilian sources said.
The sources said the troops were up against a disparate coalition of Yakutumba rebels loyal to a former army general opposed to President Joseph Kabila as well as Malaika (“angel”) allies.
The sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the rebels had taken three villages in Fizi, a region in the south of the mineral rich province prone to ethnic tensions.
An army spokesperson confirmed to AFP the army had engaged the rebels.
In February the military said they had wiped out the Yakutumba with help from neighboring Burundi, where some of their number had taken refuge.
In September of last year the Yakutumba attacked the town of Uvira on Lake Tanganyika opposite the Burundian capital Bujumbura. United Nations Monusco forces pushed them backed with Congolese support.
Congo watchers note that the area of South Kivu between Fizi and Baraka was the cradle of the rebellion by Laurent-Desire Kabila, father of the current president, who ousted Mobutu Sese Seko in May 1997.
The unrest is another front in the push by rebels to oust Kabila’s regime as the poverty-stricken DR Congo limps towards a much-delayed presidential election slated for December 23.
The former Belgian colony has not seen a peaceful transition of power since 1960.
With reporting from AFP