M23 Boss Col. Makenga is Feared to be Carrying the HIV Virus as Ugandan Govt gets Worried he Might Die in its Custody, Plans to Relocate Him to Another Country Takes Form
By Fred Daka Kamwada & Agencies
Col sultan Makenga is a slender man in his late 30s, who walks with a limp, weighs about 55 kilograms, the same light-weight kilograms as Gen Laurent Nkunda of the CNDD another rebel group that was a precursor to the M23, is hard to predict.
He doesn’t look like an ambitious military leader like so many rebel leaders. He speaks fluent Swahili with a soft touch but doesn’t seem to know a word of English or French.
He virtually looks lazy and clueless and doesn’t seem to have the shrewdness akin to rebel leaders or the fortitude associated with rebel leaders. There are whispered rumours that he carries the HIV Aids virus which he could have contracted during the years they plundered eastern Congo and raped many.
He has red lips and walks with a stick for support.Â His sickness has put the Ugandan government on tenterhooks. One official who has seen him told this reporter that Makenga is actually about to die.
The man (Makenga) is very weak that he cannot walk without the support of a stick. He is obviously suffering from the HIV virus because he has all the symptoms associated with the deadly disease, said the officials who declined to disclose other details.
Center of a Storm
But despite the sickness allegations and slender body, you under estimate him at your own peril, for the slender dark skinned leader of the M23 is now at the centre of the storm and about to cause war in the great lakes region between the Ugandan government and Democratic Republic of Congo.
He has been in command of the M23 rebel group that has been fighting the Kinshasa government for the last two years.
Last week his 1000+ plus strong insurrectionist M23 group was defeated by the combined force of the Congolese with the eager support of Tanzania and the United Nations force. And they were kicked out of their strongholds in parts of Rutsuru, Goma, and Bunagana before being forced to retreat to Uganda.
On November 7, 2013, he surrendered with hundreds of M23 fighters in Mgahinga National Park, Uganda. The BBC world service reported that Brig Makenga and about 1,700 fighters were hastily disarmed and are being held in a secret location.
But the official version is that he is in the custody of the Ugandan government contrary to the expectations of the DRC govt which want him to answer for crimes he committed in the eastern parts of Congo.
It’s widely believed that Makenga was the reason why the much publicised talks between the M23 and the DRC collapsed early this week.
Itâ€™s said that the talks collapsed because the Congolese govt simply wanted an assurance that Makenga would account for his crimes while the M23 group want to convert him into their political leadership.
The Ugandan govt thought the two warring parties would agree, but Ugandan defense minister Crispus Kiyonga was embarrassed when the DRC govt opted to walkout of the talks.
Now news reaching our desk shows that the Ugandan government is now toying with the idea of relocating the M23 leader to another country amidst protests from the Congolese government, that wants him tried for the war crimes.
This week the Ugandan government spokesperson Zephaniah Ofwono Opondo (ZOO) told the media that a decision on whether to hand him over would have to wait until a peace deal is signed between DR Congo and the M23 rebels.
But both DR Congo and the UN are adamant that the M23’s top commanders will not be given amnesty, and wants him extradited to Congo.
But Makenga is lucky that he has no ICC arrest warrant hanging over his head. Nevertheless the UN Security Council imposed a travel ban and asset freeze on him last year, accusing him of being responsible for the “killing and maiming, sexual violence, abduction, and forced displacement” – a reference to the fact that some 800,000 people fled their homes during the 19-month rebellion.
The other glitch is that Uganda has no extradition treaty with the Congo. This makes it difficult for the Ugandan govt to hand him over to the Kinshasa.
The Ugandan govt has been put in a catch twenty situation as the issues of his failing health also come to the fore. He is visibly sick and is beginning g to weaken every day. It’s believed that he is under intensive medical care.
Writing in the Thinking Africa blog, DR Congo researchers Timo Mueller and Christoph Vogel recall meeting him in April at an over-run government military base in the small village of Rumangabo, in eastern DR Congo.
They wrote that Makenga did not look well when they met him. “One observation was striking: Makenga seemed exhausted, leaning deep – almost crouching – into the chair, while his face and eyes remained vivid as if juxtaposed against his fatigue. His entourage surrounded us, and his mannerisms remained limited and slow,” they said.
That was about seven months ago when the researchers met him. His situation has worsened to an extent that he is about to die. The Ugandan govt wouldn’t want such a person to die in its custody because it would lead to all sorts of conspiracy theories to fly around. But the DRC govt wants him dead or alive.