The Bosco surrender: more questions than answers
By Jason Stearns, Congo Siasa
22 March 2013
There has been a lot of conjecture and speculation surrounding Bosco's "surrender" to the US embassy on Tuesday morning. In recent weeks, various parties to the conflict have been purposely spreading false information, which has made it difficult to parse the facts. Here are my own thoughts on some of these points.
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.
The larger and perhaps more important question is: Why did the M23 implode? Divisions existed since the group's creation in April 2012, driven by ethnic considerations (Bosco is from the Gogwe sub-ethnic group, many of Makenga's officers are Banyajomba), historical differences (Makenga was close to Laurent Nkunda, whom Bosco replaced in January 2009), and struggles over money and power (each carried out promotions behind the other's back and set up separate tax structures).
The final straw, however, appears to have been the looming possibility of a peace deal, or at least Bosco's perception that one might take place. With an international arrest warrant looming over his head, and declarations by the Congolese government concerning his arrest, he knew that he would have no chance of re-integrating the Congolese army.
Nonetheless, important questions persist. Allegations abound, for example, that President Kabila exacerbated the divisions with bribes. But which side did he bribe––each accuses the other for having received blood money.
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?
How did Bosco get to the US embassy?
Again, there appear to be more questions than answers. It is obvious that Bosco thought his choice was the ICC or probable death––but at the hands of whom? And was it his choice to make?
The first version, supported by many current and former M23 soldiers, has Bosco crossing the border along with the rest of his troops, probably on 14 or 15 March, being arrested by the Rwandan army and debriefed. They then decided that they didn't want yet another Congolese rebel under house arrest in Rwanda––Laurent Nkunda and Jules Mutebutsi are enough of a headache, and Bosco's ICC warrant would certainly make him a more difficult case.
But why would the Rwandan government hand Bosco over to the US embassy, where he immediately asked to be transferred to the ICC? 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. If this version is correct, it may be that Rwanda was not left any good options and preferred Bosco being sent to the ICC than having him sit around under house arrest in Rwanda (or worse). After all, Bosco's former UPC boss Thomas Lubanga stood trial for 5 years without any revelations being made about outside support to his group.
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.
True? Hard to say––Bosco does have friends and family in Rwanda, as well as a lot of money. But if he wanted to hand himself over to the ICC, why not just go to the MONUSCO base in Kibati (just north of Goma), which was under his control up until the last minute? It would probably have been safer for him. And could he really escape detection by Rwandan security services, who have extensive contacts with M23 members and good control over their own country?
Will he be transferred to the ICC?
Yes. There has been a lot of conjecture about the fact that the US is not signatory of the Rome Statute; Congolese analysts have also been suggesting that since the US is an ally to Rwanda, they might not want to transfer him, or that he will have to get from the US embassy to the airport, going through Rwandan territory.
At the end, none of this matters or is accurate. The Obama administration has not signed the ICC (it thinks it would be difficult to push it through domestically), but it backs the court. The expansion of the Rewards for Justice program last year to include individuals indicted by the ICC was an expression of that support––and it put a $5 million reward on Bosco's head (no one is thought to have picked it up, however). And President Kagame has now said that it will not block Bosco's extradition. So it's just a matter of time.
What will the impact be of his transfer to the ICC?
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).
On the other hand, Rwanda emerges with a boost to its reputation. While it isn't clear what role it played in Bosco's surrender, at the very least they signed off on the implosion of the M23, which makes it look like their are more part of the solution than the problem. In recent weeks, the World Bank has disbursed $50 million of the cut aid, and other donors may soon follow suit.
What will happen at the ICC? Bosco is reportedly more of a slam dunk that other cases currently being tried. Given his direct involvement in military operations, there is strong evidence against him for the Ituri crimes (rape, recruitment of child soldiers, murder, pillage). In addition, the prosecutor will seek to add charges related to his time as chief of staff of the CNDP (2006-2009).
So, in sum, 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 to one of the barriers to a peace process in the country.
© Congo Siasa Blog.
Bosco Ntaganda's Surrender Doesn't Mean the DRC Conflict Is Over
There's something morally satisfying about International Criminal Court indictee, prolific career militant, and former M23 rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda's dramatic surrender to American diplomats at the U.S. embassy in Kigali, Rwanda yesterday. Ntaganda recruited child soldiers and ran a mafia-like network in the war-torn and resource-rich eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. But now a person responsible for building, profiting from, and ruling over an empire of human exploitation and suffering will live out the next few years in a prison cell, rather than in a villa along the shores of Lake Kivu or in a secured jungle redoubt, surrounded by armed henchman. As a moral statement, this is something to celebrate: Ntaganda won't die a free man, because the contemporary international order refuses to grant him the privilege. Even in a world well attuned to the dangers that atrocity and impunity pose for the human race at large, it is unusual for the moral balance to be so immediately and dramatically restored, and rarer still for the International Criminal Court to play such a straightforwardly positive role in meting out justice (seelast week's events in Kenya for an example of just how rare).
The chaos and suffering that Bosco Ntaganda epitomized are as present and as challenging as ever in the eastern DRC.This is an encouraging story, but a highly schematic one -- with just the slightest bit of context, yesterday's events begin to look like something other than a clear-cut win for the forces of good. To begin with, Ntaganda didn't throw himself at the mercy of the ICC as the result of a political solution to the ongoing M23 conflict, or even because of any external or multilateral diplomatic or political pressure. Quite the opposite: in 2009, Ntaganda was made a General in the Congolese military after a secretive peace agreement between the Congolese and Rwandan governments, an accord that not only shielded the ex anti-Kinshasa warlord from ICC prosecution, but protected his patronage and smuggling networks in the eastern DRC.
Things hardly changed when Ntaganda and his followers defected from the Congolese military in early 2012. Thanks to material and political support from Rwanda, M23 was able to carve out its own micro-statelet in North Kivu, an entity that became powerful enough to march on and subsequently occupy the region's most important city in November of 2012. Until very recently, Ntaganda wanted to protect his sphere of influence in the east, while Rwanda wanted to continue using its proxies as a hedge against anti-Kigali militants and the general chaos lurking in its western border (rational enough concerns, considering that the eastern DRC has been in a more or less continuous state of war since the mid-1990s). The politics of the region actively reinforced Ntagnda's impunity. Amazingly, this atmosphere persisted even after the 2009 agreement fell apart -- and, with it, the assumption that ignoring the past exploits of ICC-indicted warlords was a nasty but unavoidable precondition for peace in the eastern DRC.
Ntaganda's arrest had nothing to with vaunted ideals of global justice or accountability. But it probably had a lot to do with recent, violent schisms within M23, and a parallel schism within the Kigali elite. On February 26, eight members of M23 were killed during a shootout between supporters of Ntaganda and followers of Sultani Makenga, the head of the M23's military wing. Just earlier this week, another flare-up sent Jean-Marie Runiga, the political leader of M23, fleeing across the border, along with Ntanganda and other fighters loyal to him. There is some evidence that Rwanda has pulled back its support from M23 after several countries -- including the United States -- cut aid to president Paul Kagame's government, in light of a U.N. report tying his regime to the rebel movement. It now seems likely that Rwanda is channeling its perhaps-decreased assistance through Makenga while offering up the ICC-indicted Ntaganda as a sign that the country is committed to a new regional peace building effort, as well as to good global citizenship more generally. Ntaganda probably wouldn't have fled into Rwanda simply to turn himself in. It's even less likely that he would have fled east had he not expected Rwanda to shelter him, or at least place him under a loose or comfortable house arrest.
The latter must have seemed like a realistic possibility for him: after all, Rwanda isn't an ICC member state. And as part of the 2009 agreement, Laurent Nkunda, the head of the anti-Kinshasa militia that was integrated into the military under the treaty, was deported to Rwanda and placed a under house arrest, from which he was alleged to have played a fairly active role in organizing the M23 mutiny. House arrest could have meant a second lease on life for Ntaganda, and he might have seen it as a more attractive option than constantly fighting for his life as leader of a rump M23 faction. But this wasn't an attractive option for the Rwandans, who clearly wanted Ntaganda out of their lives for good.
If Ntaganda's capture is far from an ambiguous victory for global justice, it is even harder to determine its effect on the people who once lived under The Terminator's reign of terror. The conflict in the eastern DRC isn't over yet; in an informal conversation, one person familiar with the region even suggested to me that Ntaganda's capture could make M23 stronger than it was before. Ntaganda might have passed from the scene, but he leaves behind a militia movement that's less troubled with internal strife and a conflict that still stubbornly resists even the most broad-based attempts at solving it. The root factors of the eastern DRC's ongoing problems -- like the splintering of militia groups and the interference of neighboring states -- are apparent even in the conditions of Ntaganda's capture. The ex-warlord is safely behind bars. But the chaos and suffering that he epitomized are as present and as challenging as ever.
UNSC welcomes surrender of Rwanda-born warlord Ntaganda
An alleged leader of several armed militia groups active in the conflict-ridden eastern DRC, Ntaganda has been wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) since 2006 for the war crimes of enlisting, conscripting and using children under the age of 15 to participate actively in hostilities.
Ntaganda surrendered himself voluntarily on March 22 and is now in the ICC's custody.
"The members of the Security Council welcomed the surrender of Bosco Ntaganda to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands on March 22, 2013. The members of the Security Council paid tribute to all victims of serious crimes of international concern in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)," the Security Council said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the US said Ntaganda's surrender marks an important day for international justice and the people of the eastern regions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
"For nearly seven years, Ntaganda was a fugitive from justice, evading accountability for alleged violations of international humanitarian law and mass atrocities against
Ntaganda's expected appearance before the ICC will send a strong message to all perpetrators of atrocities that they will be held accountable for their crimes, Kerry said.
National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden described his surrender as "an important day for international justice and the people" of Congo.
"He has eluded justice for nearly seven years. Bringing Ntaganda to justice will be an important step toward ending the cycle of impunity that has fostered violence and instability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for far too long," she said.