A militia accused of mass rape and murder in eastern DRC is ready to lay down its weapons, the UN said Friday.
GOMA, DR Congo - A militia accused of mass rape and murder in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is ready to lay down its weapons, the head of the UN mission said Friday, urging the army to restore order in the vicinity.
A self-defence militia led by "General" Sheka Ntabo Ntaberi and known as Sheka Mai Mai has been active in the region at least three years, battling rival forces for control of gold mines.
"Thirty-six hours ago, (the town of) Pinga was liberated from the Sheka Mai Mai and of Sheka himself. Now it's vital to restore the authority of the state as soon as possible," Martin Kobler told AFP in a brief interview.
At the end of October, the UN mission to the country, MONUSCO, reported that "at least 34 civilians, including 20 children (aged between six months and 17 years) were killed with extreme violence" by the Sheka Mai Mai in villages in Masisi territory, North Kivu.
The militia is also accused of taking part in the rape of almost 400 people in July and August 2010 in the Walikale territory, adjoining the Masisi.
An arrest warrant for its leader has been issued by state prosecutors and MONUSCO has denounced "serious rights violations, which could constitute crimes under international law, notably crimes against humanity."
Kobler made no mention of a surrender by Sheka himself and did not say how many militia members had turned themselves in, but on Wednesday MONUSCO reported that 140 fighters from the force had surrendered between November 19 and 27.
According to Kobler, Sheka Mai Mai forces were prepared to go to military lodgings that already hold hundreds of former fighters who have turned themselves in since the surrender on November 5 of rebels of the Movement of March 23 (M23), after an 18-month uprising.
The UN special envoy to the central African Great Lakes region, Mary Robinson, warned Friday that development in the Democratic Republic of Congo depended on disarming all armed movements.
"To enable development, the other armed groups must come out of the bush," Robinson said in the eastern city of Goma.
The military defeat of the M23 was a major boost to the Congolese army, which received help during its campaign from a special UN intervention brigade that operates under an unprecedented mandate to target and neutralise armed movements, which are rife in the east.
But several dozen armed movements -- community-based militias, army defectors and rebel forces, both native to the DR Congo and from neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda -- are highly active in the east and often involved in the struggle to control its rich mineral resources.
DR Congo militia accused of mass rape ready to surrender: UN