In a bizarre turn of events, M23 rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda surrendered to the U.S. Embassy in Kigali on March 18th amidst swirling rumors of his presence in Rwanda, reports of internal fighting among M23 factions, and an impending peace deal between rebels and the Congolese government.
Ntaganda, also known as “The Terminator,” a nickname that reflects the brutal reputation he earned through his violent career, is widely considered one of the most blatant perpetrators of mass atrocities in eastern Congo. Despite this, on Tuesday, March 26, Ntaganda preemptively pleaded “not guilty” to ten counts of war crimes and three counts of crimes against humanity. Two arrest warrants issued by the International Criminal Court, or ICC, in 2006 and 2012, charge him for his actions as an “indirect co-perpetrator” while leading the rebel group, Forces Patriotiques pour la Libération du Congo, or FPLC, in the Ituri region of North Kivu province in late 2002 and early 2003. The charges include two counts of murder, two counts of rape and sexual slavery, pillaging, attacks on civilian populations, persecution, and the enlistment, conscription, and use of child soldiers during combat.
In addition to the preliminary hearing on March 26, a status conference is scheduled for April 15 and a hearing to confirm the charges against Ntaganda is scheduled for September 23.
Though he is on trial for alleged crimes perpetrated during his time leading the FPLC, most recently Ntaganda co-founded the M23 rebel group that arose in eastern Congo in late March 2012. In a strange twist, Ntaganda turned himself in to the custody of the ICC exactly four years after the signing of the disputed peace agreement that sparked the M23 revolution in March of last year. And while there is no guarantee Ntaganda will be convicted, this demonstration of international justice in the face of impunity is a victory for those who strive for peace and reconciliation in eastern Congo.
Photo: Bosco Ntaganda at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands (AP).
- Most-Wanted Warlord Ntaganda in U.S. Custody While Rwandan Authorities Detain Other Key M23 Officials
- FACT SHEET: Who is Bosco Ntaganda: Lynchpin to Security or International War Criminal?