Kinshasa - A militia leader accused of kidnap, rape and cannibalism has surrendered alongside around 40 of his followers in Democratic Republic of Congo, the government said on Monday.
Paul Sadala, a poacher-turned-militia leader known as “Morgan” operating in Congo's Orientale province, has repeatedly attacked populations in the Okapi Fauna Reserve, a World Heritage site, since 2012.
UN experts said in December Morgan changed his focus from poaching elephants to attacking gold mines. They accuse him and his men of kidnapping people to carry looted goods and of forcing women into sexual slavery as “wives” for militia members.
They said in another report last July that former captives had told them that the group, known as “Mai Mai Morgan”, had engaged in cannibalism on several occasions.
Morgan's militia is just one part of a complex and deadly network of armed groups in Congo's lawless east. Most of these groups finance their operations by competing for control of Congo's vast deposits of minerals, including gold, diamonds, tin, copper and coltan.
The Congolese army, alongside UN peacekeeping troops, in November defeated the main M23 rebel group, seen as the greatest threat to President Joseph Kabila in more than a decade.
The government has had an arrest warrant out for Morgan since November 2012 on charges of war crimes and crimes of sexual violence.
“The pressure exerted by the army meant that (Morgan) was obliged to recognise his military inferiority, which pushed him to give himself up,” government spokesman Lambert Mende said.
He said not all the followers had surrendered and urged them to do so. Morgan's group operates deep in the jungle, a long way from where M23 was based, and its numbers are not known.
Yvon Edoumou, spokesman for the UN humanitarian agency in Congo, hailed the arrest: “Any time you have a warlord surrendering it is a positive step. Morgan was very active, he had a strong hold over the area he was in.”