Saturday, March 23, 2013

DR Congo: The end of a beginning ?

Reuters reports 

Congolese warlord arrives at war crimes court jail

Rebel General Ntaganda Bosco (2ndL) walks escorted by comrades on January 11, 2009 at his mountain base in Kabati, 40km north west of the provincial capital Goma. Democratic Republic of Congo rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda left Rwanda on March 22, 2013 with International Criminal Court

(Reuters) - A Congolese warlord known as "the Terminator" who is accused of murder, rape and other atrocities arrived at the International Criminal Court's jail in the Netherlands early on Saturday, the court said.

The date is somewhat amusing. He arrived at the Hague on March 23.  

Bosco Ntagandawho walked off the street and gave himself up at the U.S. Embassy in Kigali in a surprise move on Monday, was flown in a private jet from the Rwandan capital to The Hague after being handed over to the court's custody.

A few days ago I blogged,

" That is not so much throwing down the gauntlet as taking a theoretical AK 47 and and emptying a magazine into Ntagada's chest. "

I was however astonished at how quickly Ntaganda's fall occurred. Jason Stearns at Congo Siasa    throws a bit of light on the situation.
Why did Bosco surrender?

His time was up. On February 24, an internal battle had broken out among the M23, pitting Bosco's wing against that of Sultani Makenga (for more information about Bosco's career and the divisions within the M23 see the Usalama Project's briefing here). While Bosco led a large group of soldiers––at least 500 were reported to have crossed the border on 14 March––he was short on ammunition. After weeks of fighting, he decided to run.

In the context of armed groups in the Congo 500 men is a reasonable force. As Stearns points out had Rwanda wanted to keep him in the revolutionary business it would have been a simple exercise to resupply his arsenal. One must assume his funding had dried up and that his control over the informal revenues extorted from the people of the Eastern DR Congo had ended.

After a 15-year career that spanned a series of Rwandan-backed rebellions in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, he will appear in court on Tuesday for the first hearing in a process that could lead to him being put on trial for war crimes.

Jason Stearns in the same blog observes. 

" Rwanda's role is also curious. Reliable reports point to Rwandan backing for the M23 up until the capture of Goma on November 20, 2012. Since then, however, support appears to have declined (perhaps also because there has been a de facto truce with the Congolese army during the Kampala negotiations). However, if the Rwandan army had wanted to prevent the implosion, they most likely could have. Also, if they had wanted to solve Bosco's ammo problem, they could have easily sent bullets and mortar rounds across the border. So why didn't it? Had the aid cuts affected its view of the conflict, and the M23 squabbles looked like a way out?"

I find it difficult to believe that we are  witnessing the end of Rwandan interventions and the attitude of the regime remains openly hostile to the international community.  

Ntaganda was most recently a commander in the M23 rebel movement, but his position weakened after the group split in two.
His removal from the conflict creates an opportunity to secure a peace agreement to end the year-old rebellion in a region dogged by conflicts.

Actually I doubt this. This story quotes the same Stearns that I have been leaning on. I prefer this from his blog to the excerpts quoted in the Reuters story.

In part, it strengthens Makenga's hand––he is now rid of a large faction of his officers and political leaders who had been a thorn in his side. While he has probably lost over a third of his troops to death or defection, he has rationalized his military chain of command and now has more reliable politicians to represent him in Kampala. While he is now rid of all of the officers with serious legal problems (except himself), it is unclear whether this will result in a peace deal in Kampala. M23 delegates say that they can't accept the terms proposed by Kabila, which amount to integration with almost nothing in return. In particular, they insist on good ranks, political positions, the return of refugees, and a generous amnesty. As one of Makenga's officers told me today, just before a meeting of the officer corps, "Alituambia: vita ingali. Kungali njia mrefu." (He told us: there is still war. The road is still long).

Ntaganda's surrender was the first time an ICC suspect had voluntarily handed themselves over to be in the court's custody.

Yes well when you are down to your last chance as they say make sure it is a good one. I guess this way he emerges with his life and eventually liberty.

He asked stunned U.S. officials at the embassy to be transferred to the court, where he will face charges of recruiting child soldiers, murder, ethnic persecution, sexual slavery and rape during the 2002-3 conflict in northeastern Congo's gold mining Ituri district.
His whereabouts had been unknown after hundreds of his fighters fled into Rwanda or surrendered to U.N. peacekeepers last weekend following their defeat by a rival faction of M23 rebels in the mineral-rich eastern Congo.
"Bosco thought his choice was the ICC or probable death," said Jason Stearns of the Rift Valley Institute.

That is quite the stupidest sub title I have seen in quite some time. Maybe, just maybe it provides some hope for the living victims that the world might learn of the situation in the eastern DR Congo as a result of the evidence presented against  Ntaganda.

Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said Ntaganda flew out of Kigali in the custody of ICC officials following cooperation between the Rwandan, U.S. and Dutch governments.
A Reuters witness had seen a blacked-out U.S. Embassy vehicle under police escort drive along the perimeter of Kigali international airport. Shortly after, a private jet took off.
His first courtroom appearance, to confirm his identity, will be on Tuesday morning, the court said in a statement.

And really that is the end of this chapter. It will be interesting to hear the evidence against and the defense arguments for Ntaganda again I thought that Jason Stearns nailed it with this observation. It is taken out of context.
"....The Rwandan government opposes the ICC, and is probably concerned by some of the revelations that Bosco could make on the stand. After all, Kigali backed the UPC armed group for whose crimes Bosco is now answering, as well as the CNDP and M23.  .... "

With an arrest warrant hanging over him, Ntaganda and his backers were seen as an obstacle to peace between the M23 and the Congolese government that the rival faction had shown signs of warming to.
"Bosco's arrest won't bring peace to the eastern Congo, but Bosco's arrest does spell a victory in the battle against impunity and the dismantling of one of the barriers to a peace process in the country," Stearns said.

The trial of Rwandan-born Ntaganda could prove an embarrassment to the Rwandan government, which has denied charges by a United Nations panel that it backs the M23 rebels.

I guess some credit is due to Rwanda if they did force Ntaganda to give himself up but it may well have been that they were presented with a fait accompli, Stearns again. 

The second version, supported by ex-CNDP officers, diplomats and Congolese and Rwandan intelligence agents, suggests that Bosco slipped across the border, evading detection and eventually arriving at the US embassy in downtown Kigali. According to this version, he took advantage of his contacts in the Rwandan army, as well as his ethnic kin and family in Ruhengeri, to escape arrest. There have even been reports of Rwandan intelligence agents being arrested for failing in their duties to detect him.

If the reports of arrests of Rwandan intelligence officers is correct then I think that it might well be a indication of the Rwandan attitude towards this. I for one am not prepared to give Rwanda the benefit of any doubt at this stage.

ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda might seek to add additional charges related to rebellions that followed the alleged Ituri crimes, analysts said.
Wars in Congo have killed about five million people in the past decade and a half, and many eastern areas are still afflicted by violence from a number of rebel groups despite a decade-long U.N. peacekeeping mission.
"Bosco Ntaganda's arrival in The Hague will be a major victory for victims of atrocities in eastern Congo," said Geraldine Mattioli-Zeltner, international justice advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. 

It will be a start and a humble start as well.

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