Mar 19 2013
Bosco Ntaganda, a Rwandan national and general in the Congolese military* indicted for war crimes, a particularly bad actor who’s stirred up violence in a part of the world that has plenty of bad actors and violence, walked into the U.S. Embassy in Kigali, Rwanda, today and asked to be delivered to the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands.
That’s according to State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, who confirmed a Rwandan foreign ministry statement from earlier today. “I can confirm that Bosco Ntaganda … walked into U.S. Embassy Kigali,” she said, adding that the U.S. is “working to facilitate” Ntaganda’s request that he be “transferred” to the ICC. (This is actually trickier than it sounds for some very interesting reasons; more on this later.)
Ntaganda’s rap sheet is very, very dark; when you think of the most horrific stories coming out of the Democratic Republic of Congo during its wars, you’re probably thinking about Ntaganda. The ICC indicted him in 2006 for, according to a summary by Human Rights Watch, “allegedly committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in northeastern Congo in 2002 and 2003, including recruiting and using child soldiers, murder, rape and sexual slavery, and persecution.”
Since 2006, Ntaganda has been a major player in Central Africa, a powerful militia leader who allegedly had a hand in such enterprises as smuggling and the illicit “conflict minerals” trade. He’s been accused of running his corner of eastern Congo as a mafia-style fiefdom. Most recently, he helped lead a Congolese rebel movement called M23 that, this fall, briefly seized the city of Goma.
The big question: Why would someone so powerful voluntarily give himself up to the ICC, which is likely to sentence him to many years in jail? We don’t know the answer right now. Maybe we’ll find out later today, maybe not for months, maybe not forever. But here, if for no other reason than to help understand the dynamics at play, are some of the theories being tossed around by Central Africa watchers. To be clear, these are just theories, but worth considering.
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