18 Mar 2013

Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda hands himself in

Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda, known as “The Terminator”, hands himself into the US Embassy in the Rwandan capital.

Ntaganda, who is Rwandan born, is wanted by the International Criminal Court for suspected war crimes – and faces charges of conscripting child soldiers, murder, ethnic persecution and rape in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

The ICC has been seeking to arrest Ntaganda since 2006, when as the leader of the “Forces Patriotiques pour la Libération du Congo” (FPLC), the military wing of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), he is accused of carrying out the war crimes.

Vivianne Mukakizima, spokesperson for Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, told Channel 4 News: “We can confirm that Bosco has handed himself over.”

He has now fled the movement he helped start early last year, and has apparently run out of options – Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jonathan Miller

A spokeswoman for the ICC chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, told Channel 4 News: “This is great news for the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo, who have suffered from the crimes of an ICC fugitive for too long.”

US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said: “I can confirm that this morning Bosco Ntaganda, and ICC indictee and leader of one of the M23 factions, walked into US Embassy Kigali.

“He specifically asked to be transferred to the ICC in the Hague. We are currently consulting with a number of governments, including the Rwandan government, in order to facilitate his request.”

‘Terrible war crimes’

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Tuesday: “I welcome the news that Bosco Ntaganda has handed himself in to the US Embassy in Kigali with the intention of being sent to the ICC in The Hague.

“Ntaganda is accused of perpetrating terrible war crimes in eastern Congo, including the use of rape and sexual slavery. I fully support the intention for him to be transferred to the ICC to face trial. I urge all to co-operate in facilitating this transfer as quickly as possible.

“The UK is committed to combating and preventing sexual violence in conflict, and this is why last year I started my initiative on Preventing Sexual Violence (PSVI).

“Justice is a prerequisite for conflict resolution and peace building. Ending impunity for those who commit such crimes is fundamental to deterring them from occurring in the future and allowing victims and communities to seek justice and peace.

“I believe the transfer of Ntaganda to the ICC will act as a deterrent to armed groups still operating in DRC and elsewhere, who use violence, particularly sexual violence, as a tactic of war.”

Ntaganda defeated

Ntaganda’s forces were reintegrated into the Congolese army in 2008, and he was promoted to general in 2009. During his time in the Congolese army he “drove around without a care in the world”, playing tennis and going to top restaurants.

However, in April 2012, Ntaganda and soldiers loyal to him split from the army again, calling themselves M23. In November they captured the Congolese city of Goma.

Read more: Rwanda - descent into tyranny?

It appears that Ntaganda has recently suffered a punishing defeat following a split within his rebel group, as Channel 4 News Foreign Coreespondent Jonathan Miller explains below.

Rwanda’s involvement with M23 has been a cause for concern. In November, Britain witheld £21m of aid to the African country due to “credible and compelling reports of Rwandan involvement”.

There have long been allegations that Rwanda has been involved in “fomenting civil war in Congo”, as explored by Jonathan Miller on Dispatches last year.

Jonathan Miller writes: Neither Rwanda nor the US are signatories of the Treaty of Rome and therefore are not members of the International Criminal Court. Neither has any responsibility to hand over indicted war criminals, but the ICC will clearly hope that the Americans will do so in good faith. 

From Bosco's point of view there were reports of violent internecine feuding between two factions of the M23 rebel movement, one led by Sultani Makenga, the other by Bosco Ntaganda. Bosco's faction reportedly suffered very heavy losses, forcing his late night escape via a discreet border crossing into neighbouring Rwanda on Saturday. Bosco is a renegade and mutineer from the Congolese national army. He has now fled the movement he helped start early last year, and has apparently run out of options.

If the allegations of Rwandan involvement in the Congo are true, the last thing the Rwandan government will want is for Bosco to end up in the Hague because he knows far too much about President Kagame's alleged role in fomenting civil war in Congo. It is likely that he's trying to secure his own safety and possibly gain a bargaining position by turning himself over to the United States in this way.

Bosco's continued direct lineto the heart of the Rwandan regime - as alleged in repeated UN security council reports - means that he's been lucky, frankly, to get away with his life so far.

Watch below, Jonathan Miller’s report from April 2012 on Ntaganda ‘the Terminator’.