KAMPALA - Defeated Democratic Republic of Congo rebels who fled to Uganda have signed amnesty papers vowing not to fight again, a leader of the group said Tuesday, marking a key step in peace efforts.
"It's a commitment not to take up arms again against the republic," the political head of the M23 rebel group Bertrand Bisimwa told AFP.
Ugandan military spokesman Paddy Ankunda said 1,295 ex-rebels -- who are confined to a camp under Ugandan army guard -- had signed the forms.
DR Congo President Joseph Kabila announced the amnesty in February, to cover "acts of insurgency, acts of war and political offences."
However, more serious transgressions are excluded from the amnesty, including crimes against humanity, torture, sexual violence, child conscription and embezzlement and looting.
M23's 18-month long rebellion was crushed in November by government troops and UN peacekeepers, with fighters fleeing into neighbouring Uganda and Rwanda.
The United Nations and Kinshasa have accused both Rwanda and Uganda of actively backing the rebellion that was launched by mutinous soldiers, claims denied by both Kigali and Kampala.
Several hundred M23 fighters in Rwanda are expected to sign similar papers in coming days, Bisimwa said.
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Defeated Congo rebels sign amnesty to end fighting