Fugitive Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for a string of war crimes, has surrendered and turned himself in to the US Embassy in the Rwandan capital Kigali, US and Rwandan officials say.
“I can confirm that Bosco Ntaganda… walked into the US Embassy in Kigali this morning (Monday),” US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters in Washington on Monday.
“He specifically asked to be transferred to the ICC in The Hague,” she added. “We are currently consulting with a number of governments, including the Rwandan government, in order to facilitate his request.”
“We strongly support the work that the ICC is doing to investigate the atrocities committed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. And we are going to continue to work with the ICC on this matter,” Nuland stated.
Ntaganda, known by the nom de guerre “Terminator” due to his brutal methods, has been wanted by the ICC since 2006 on charges of committing the war crimes of enlisting and conscripting children under the age of fifteen and using them to participate actively in hostilities.
Earlier in the day, Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said in a statement that Ntaganda had “presented himself” at the US Embassy in Kigali.
Congolese government spokesman Lambert Mende said on Monday that Ntaganda had crossed into Rwanda on Saturday with help from the Rwandan army.
“We’d prefer to have him judged here, but if he is sent to The Hague, that’s no problem either,” Mende stated. “The most important thing is that justice is served.”
On Saturday, March 16, sources in the United Nations and the March 23 movement (M23) said that hundreds of Ntaganda men had fled into Rwanda or surrendered to UN peacekeepers after being defeated by the M23 rebels.
The fighting broke out on February 28 after M23 military chief Sultani Makenga sacked the group’s political leader, Jean-Marie Runiga, for his alleged links with Ntaganda, prompting fighters to turn their weapons on each other. Runiga, along with his many loyalists, joined the Ntaganda faction.
Runiga was among those who fled to Rwanda. He was detained by the Rwandan authorities on Saturday.
Scores of other rebels, including senior officers, have turned themselves in to UN peacekeepers over the past few days, a UN official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said on Saturday. “It’s over for the Bosco and Runiga faction.”
“We are victorious, we won the battle,” M23 spokesman Colonel Vianney Kazarama said on March 16.
“We’re sweeping the area and placing our soldiers at strategic points,” he added. “It is finished.”
The M23 rebels defected from the Congolese army in April 2012 in protest over alleged mistreatment in the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC). They had previously been integrated into the Congolese army under a peace deal signed in 2009.
General Ntaganda had been the leader of the M23 until February 2013, and it is unclear why he chose to part ways with the M23 and to form his own faction.
Since early May 2012, nearly 3 million people have fled their homes in the eastern Congo. About 2.5 million have resettled in Congo, but more than 460,000 have crossed into neighboring Rwanda and Uganda.
Congo has faced numerous problems over the past few decades, such as grinding poverty, crumbling infrastructure, and a war in the east of the country that has dragged on since 1998 and left over 5.5 million people dead.