Confusion swirled following Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo announcing via Twitter that Gen. Bosco Ntaganda had surrendered willingly to the United States. The International Criminal Court first indicted Ntaganda for recruiting children in 2003 as part of a rebellion against the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but he has until now avoided capture.
The U.S. Embassy in Kigali was unable to confirm or deny Mushikiwabo’s statements for the next two hours, before State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland affirmed during her daily press briefing that Ntaganda was inside the Embassy. Complicating matters, neither the United States nor Rwanda are members of the Court, thus are not obliged to hand Ntaganda over. Instead, the U.S. is currently working with other countries to facilitate Ntaganda’s transfer to The Hague.
In the time since charges were filed against Ntaganda, he was first integrated into the Congolese armed forces as part of a peace deal, before defecting to lead yet another rebellion against the Congolese government — the M23 movement. A United Nations Group of Experts claimed in a report that the Rwandan government has been controlling the M23 as a proxy against the Congo. The United States has, in turn, been accused of running defense for Rwanda, protecting it from potential international condemnation. Rwanda’s ties to Ntaganda, however, became tenuous over time, as factions emerged within the M23:
“I’m sure he was much more scared of us than the [US] embassy because he has caused some friction,” a senior Rwandan military official told the FT, adding that he believed Gen Ntaganda feared for his life. “The information we had consistently coming from his people was that he was heading deeper and deeper into the forest but that was a deception to our intelligence.”
Ntaganda standing trial at the Hague is a much needed boost for the ten year-old ICC. Credibility is at a premium for the body, as its warrant for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has been frequently undermined by African leaders, and its indictment of Kenya’s President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta failed to keep him from winning his country’s recent election.