Officials from the ICC ‘coming for Ntaganda’

Officials from the International Criminal Court (ICC) are on their way to Kigali in order to pick DR Congo’s war crimes suspect Bosco Ntaganda, a senior US official has said.
Ntaganda (L), who has sought refuge at the American Embassy in Kigali, will be picked up by ICC officials , according to Amb. Carson (R).  The New Times/ File.
Ntaganda (L), who has sought refuge at the American Embassy in Kigali, will be picked up by ICC officials , according to Amb. Carson (R). The New Times/ File.

Officials from the International Criminal Court (ICC) are on their way to Kigali in order to pick DR Congo’s war crimes suspect Bosco Ntaganda, a senior US official has said.

Ntaganda turned himself in at the US Embassy in Kigali on Monday and asked to be transferred to The Hague-based tribunal.

Amb. Johnnie Carson, the United States Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs, was yesterday addressing journalists at the US Embassy in Kigali via a video link.

“Officials from the ICC are, as we speak, en route to Kigali,” he said. “We believe that it is important to accommodate Bosco Ntaganda’s request to be transferred to the ICC.”

The US, like Rwanda, is not a signatory to the Rome Statute that established the court.

Carson said; “The timeline (of Ntaganda’s transfer to the ICC) is uncertain but the need for rapid and quick action is clear, we have been told that officials from the ICC are, as we speak, en route to Kigali. We hope that when these officials arrive, they would be admitted into the country, that they would be allowed to proceed to the Embassy and accorded appropriate diplomatic passage and to move Ntaganda out of Kigali into the arms of the ICC.”

Rwanda has indicated that it would not interfere with the transfer of Ntaganda to the ICC.

Foreign Affairs minister Louise Mushikiwabo said on Tuesday, “It is a matter for the US, who are holding the suspect, the DRC–the country whose nationality the suspect holds – and the ICC.”

The US diplomat noted that there had been ‘very open and good contact’ with Kigali, with assurances of cooperation.

Amb. Carson noted the next 48 hours or so will be critical could not explain why Ntaganda chose to surrender to the US.

“I suspect that he may have come because he knows that we are a symbol of fairness and justice and integrity in this kind of process...but I don’t know and can’t read his mind,” he added.

On the likely implication of sending Ntaganda to the ICC, Carson said this would send a ‘clear signal’ to other rebel leaders and would be one step towards improving situation in the volatile eastern DR Congo.

“It will take off the battlefield one of the most notorious rebel leaders,” Carson said.

Ntaganda fell out with President Joseph Kabila early last year after the latter seemed to bow to international pressure to arrest him after joining the government under a March 2009 peace deal.

Since then, Ntaganda kept a low profile despite repeatedly being linked with the M23 rebellion in eastern DR Congo, which broke out around the same time he deserted from the army.

But in the days leading up to his surrender, a split within M23 saw its military commander, Col. Sultan Makenga, dismiss Bishop Jean Runiga, who was believed to be in favour of a hard-line stance in the ongoing peace talks with Kinshasa and working closely with Ntaganda.

Runiga, along with an estimated 700 loyalist fighters crossed into Rwanda on Saturday after they were uprooted by rival M23 fighters, sparking speculation that Ntaganda moved deep into DRC jungles without protection.

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