Authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) say none of the over 300 prisoners of the Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO) rebel movement held in the Bunia Central Prison has been released as demanded by the group on Friday.
To make good their demand, the CODECO combatants who entered the town on Friday morning attempted to forcibly free their members in the facility but failed.
On arrival in the town, the combatants had demanded that they be provided food and accommodation as well as the release of their colleagues held in the Bunia Central Prison.
The rebels who arrived carrying their arms were supposed to have laid down the arms a month ago in Djugu territory following negotiations with a delegation sent from Kinshasa by Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi.
The Mayor of Bunia, Ferdinand Lebilye confirmed that the combatants who gathered in the village of Ezekere near Bunia were not being taken care of.
The Director of the Bunia Central Prison, Camille Nzonzi, confirmed that more than 300 combatants of the CODECO rebel movement detained in the prison were still being held in the facility.
“We have more than 300 detainees presumed to be militiamen of CODECO. The freeing of prisoners is an official procedure which the Congolese state has to decide and not the director of the prison,” Nzonzi declared.
The prison, situated in Bankoko quarter was assailed by the CODECO militia around midday on Friday.
The director said the combatants attempted to forcibly free their colleagues but negotiations with the military authorities persuaded them to abandon the attempt.
“These men armed to the teeth surrounded the prison. They even started breaking the entrance from the outside, but luckily we have a solid enclosure.
“After negotiations with three of their generals who were among them, we succeeded in calming them down. Their first demand was for them to be given food and the second was the release of their colleagues,” said the Bunia Central Prison director.
The combatants numbering 100 were later transported by the army to the locality of Ezekere situated about 10km from Bunia where they had been camped for over one month following negotiations with a delegation sent by Tshisekedi to persuade them to abide by the peace process.
More than 10,000 CODECO combatants had agreed to lay down their arms in Djugu territory where since 2017, hundreds of civilians had been killed and villages razed down with one million people displaced.
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