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Mayi-Mayi warlord surrenders in Katanga

KINSHASA, 12 May 2006 (IRIN) - Mayi-Mayi warlord Kyungu Mutanga, alias Gédéon, surrendered to UN peacekeepers on Friday in Mitwaba, a town in southeastern province of Katanga in Democratic Republic of Congo.

"Gédéon has expressed his wish to be integrated into the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration process," Lt Col Frederic Medard, the military spokesman for the UN peacekeeping mission in DRC (MONUC), said in Kinshasa, the nation's capital.

He said Mutanga showed up at a disarmament, demobilisation and rehabilitation registry office with 150 of his fighters - most of whom were child soldiers. Their surrender brings to 350 the total number of Mutanga's men now under the government control. Two hundred of them had surrendered with their weapons on 6 May. They had become a major source of insecurity in the province, despite having once been allies of the central government.

During the 1990s, the central government armed the Mayi-Mayi to help oust foreign forces that had occupied eastern Congo. The government launched a concerted effort in November 2005 to disarm all local and foreign armed groups in the country. However, when the Mayi-Mayi refused to disarm, the army engaged to take away their guns.

MONUC said Mutanga's entry into the disarmament process would greatly advance the move toward general elections scheduled for 30 July, the first in some 40 years. The government also welcomed Mutanga's surrender.

"Gédéon and his band have been disarmed; it is now the end of the Mayi-Mayi militia which has caused insecurity in Katanga," Jean-Willy Mutombo, spokesman for the Congolese armed forces chief of staff, said.

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