UPDATE: Bosco Ntganda is a guest of the US embassy in Kigali. He has apparently decided to surrender to the ICC. Now, the USA is figuring out the logistics of getting him to the Hague. This was just confirmed by the State Department spokesperson, Victoria Neuland.
A couple of quick thoughts on this development:
1) I cannot imagine the government of Rwanda is terribly pleased. He received their backing and now is about to face charges in court. The trial will be a long and drawn out airing of the evidence that very well may implicate Rwanda’s top brass. (See below)
2) This is a great victory for the ICC as an institution. Ntganda has been hiding in plain site for years. The government of the DRC did not want to try to arrest him, fearing it would upset an uneasy truce. Indeed, he briefly joined forces with government troops as part of a short lived peace deal. This was an embarrassment for the ICC, that has now apparently been rectified. He will get his day in court.
Moments ago, Rwanda’s foreign minister tweeted that Bosco Ntaganda — a militia leader wanted for war crimes by the ICC — surrendered to the US embassy in Kigali, Rwanda. The US Embassy in Kigali would not confirm nor deny the reports, but told me “we have no authority to take anybody into custody.”
The details are murky. But here’s a quick explanation on why, if true, this would be a very big deal.
Ntganda is wanted for war crimes committed 10 years ago in the Ituri province of the DRC. Since then, he has been a terribly destabilizing force, leading militias accused of rape and plunder across eastern DRC. Most recently, he was a leader of the M23 rebellion which late last year briefly sacked the city of Goma in the DRC.
Ntganda has long been rumored to have been backed by Rwanda. A report from a UN panel of experts laid this claim explicitely clear last year in a report linking the M23 rebellion to the Rwandan government. Specifically, the UN experts released evidence suggesting that the Rwandan minister of defense sat atop the chain of command of the M23 rebels. Ntganda, it is alleged, is directly supplied and supported by the Rwandan government.
It is hard to understand what would motivate Ntganda to surrender to the US embassy. If he is with the US this would put Washington in a seriously awkward spot. The USA would be under enormous pressure to hand over Ntganda to the ICC. However, Rwanda is a key US ally in the region, and any subsequent trial would likely implicate top members of the Rwandan government. Rwanda would presumably prefer he stay put–and certainly away from the Hague.
This is all very intriguing. But, so far, it is all just pure speculation until we get some confirmation that he is at the US embassy.