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Congolese warlord surrenders at US embassy in Kigali

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Gen Ntaganda, who is wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, ‘specifically’ asks to be taken to The Hague. Picture: AFP / File

Gen Ntaganda, who is wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, ‘specifically’ asks to be taken to The Hague. Picture: AFP / File 

By Edmund Kagire, The East African

Posted  Tuesday, March 19  2013 at  10:29
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The State Department of the United States has confirmed that wanted Congolese warlord Gen Bosco Ntaganda is in custody in the US Embassy in Kigali after he turned in himself and ‘specifically asked to be transferred to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Gen Ntaganda, who is wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, is said to have driven into the US embassy on Monday morning, hours after Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo denied allegations by Kinshasa that Ntaganda was in Rwanda.

Moments after news filtered in that Gen Ntaganda was at the American Embassy, the Rwandan government confirmed the development, with Minister Mushikiwabo stating that ‘Ntaganda presented’ himself.

"We have just learned that Gen Ntaganda presented himself at the US Embassy early this morning. The government is still confirming the details of this evolving situation," Ms Mushikiwabo said.

The shocking development was later to be confirmed by the US State Department in a short press briefing where it was confirmed that indeed ‘Ntaganda turned in himself and asked to be transferred to The Hague,” the State Department announced.

The confirmation came hours after the US Embassy in Kigali denied the claims that Ntaganda, infamously known as ‘The Terminator’ was within the confines of the embassy.

“It is a rumour. It is not true. We are also hearing it from the media people calling in,” an official at the US Embassy who preferred anonymity told The East African, but few hours later, the US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland confirmed the claims in a press statement.

“He specifically asked to be transferred to the ICC in The Hague. We are currently consulting with a number of governments, including the Rwandan government, in order to facilitate his request,” Ms Nuland told reporters in Washington.

The announcement ended days of speculation regarding the whereabouts of the man who is facing close to a dozen charges relating to killings in Eastern DR Congo, recruiting child soldiers and rapes of scores of woman over the last decade.

Gen Ntaganda’s surrender comes after weeks of fighting between factions of M23 rebels, one led by Gen Sultani Makenga and the breakaway group led by Bishop Jean Marie Runiga, the former political head of M23 and Col Bedouin Ngaruye who are also currently in Rwanda.

The two fled with over 600 men, many of whom were injured during the intense fighting with Makenga’s men.

It had been claimed in an interview with The East African by Lt Col Vianney Kazarama, the spokesperson of Makenga faction, that the two former top men in the M23 ranks had joined Gen Ntaganda.
Over the weekend, DRC Government Spokesperson Mr Lambert Mende had claimed that Gen Ntaganda was in Rwanda but Minister Mushikiwabo was quick to brush off the claims but without necessarily stating it clearly that Ntaganda was not in Rwanda.

Meanwhile, the M23 faction led by Gen Makenga had reported that Gen Ntaganda had fled into the Virunga Mountains following the intense fighting.

A statement released by ICC spokesman Fadi El-Abdullah indicated that The Hague-based international court is working on a ‘swift transfer’, in a move that will mark over two years being on the run.

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