Ntaganda “Ready” to Face Justice

But he says he won’t submit to ICC before peace returns to war-ravanged North Kivu region.

Ntaganda “Ready” to Face Justice

But he says he won’t submit to ICC before peace returns to war-ravanged North Kivu region.

International Criminal Court, ICC, fugitive Bosco Ntaganda has said he is ready to face Hague prosecutors – but not just yet.

“I will go to The Hague when it is the right time,” Ntaganda told IWPR during a January 8 meeting with journalists at his headquarters in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, town of Kabati, 45 kilometres from the provincial capital Goma.

The ICC unsealed the indictment for the 35-year-old, known as the Terminator, in April 2008. He is accused of crimes in the Ituri district of eastern DRC, including recruiting child soldiers to fight for the Forces Patriotiques Pour la Liberation du Congo, FPLC, in 2002 and 2003.

The FPLC, in which Ntaganda was a senior figure, is the military wing of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo’s Union des Patriotes Congolais, UPC. Lubanga is in ICC custody and due to go on trial January 26.

Ntganda left Ituri in 2006 and made his way to North Kivu to join General Laurent Nkunda’s Congres National pour la Defense du Peuple, CNDP – a Tutsi rebel group battling the Congolese army and rival Hutu militias.

He became Nkunda’s second-in-command and was responsible for the recent military campaign in North Kivu which brought the CNDP to the outskirts of Goma. However, the two have since fallen out and Ntganda claims to have overthrown Nkunda – a claim strongly denied by the rebel general.

Nkunda insists that he remains in charge and has said he will convene a disciplinary hearing to deal with Ntganda.

“I go on recognising Bosco Ntaganda as my chief of staff. A high commanders’ meeting should be organised soon in order to decide on what Ntaganda will become regarding this dangerous decision he has taken,” said Nkunda.

Escorted by four armed men, Ntaganda spoke at his Kabati farm about his grievances against Nkunda.

“There are complaints from CNDP members [about] Nkunda’s bad political and financial management,” he said. “I have been a rebel for 18 years and could not accept that Nkunda has … bad practices.”

He accused Nkunda of blocking the North Kivu peace process and presented his own vision of how to end the conflict, which has claimed hundreds of lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of others.

Ntaganda offered his CNDP troops to fight alongside the Congolese army to disarm the Rwandan Hutu Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, FDLR.

“The [FDLR] are a source of the conflict in the region,” said Ntaganda.

“As [Nkunda] could not give us a clear idea on how to end this [problem], I advised our military commanders and the CNDP members to dismiss him so that we can join the peace programme.

“The CNDP is going to work with the Congolese government forces to end this FDLR problem. This is also a good start to reconciliation. Then the internally displaced people and Congolese refugees can come back home.”

CNDP soldiers are accused of committing numerous atrocities in eastern Congo in recent years, including in Bukavu in 2004 and recently in the North Kivu town of Kiwanja where Human Rights Watch documented the summary execution of more than 150 people, most allegedly killed by CNDP troops.

It is unclear for the moment who is running the CNDP with both Ntaganda and Nkunda claiming to be in control.

Both have their supporters but Seraphin Mirindi, military spokesman of the CNDP, says he is backing Nkunda.

“Bosco Ntaganda had problems in Ituri and we accepted him here. He did not have troops with him and did not bring any single gun with him. How can he now pretend to dismiss Nkunda?” asked Mirindi.

Ntaganda, however, believes he has the majority of the CNDP on his side. “I do not want to kill Nkunda nor his children, as he is my brother. I’m ready to leave him his farm and other properties, but he should stop running the CNDP,” he said.

Ntaganda is a Rwandan national who fought with the Rwandan Patriotic Army, which overthrew the Kigali government after the 1994 genocide.

He is also wanted by the Congolese authorities who issued an arrest warrant for him in April 2005. Prosecutors in Bunia accuse Ntaganda of crimes including arbitrary arrest, torture, assassination and illegal detention.

They say he was allegedly involved in the killing of a Kenyan peacekeeper and the kidnapping of a Moroccan peacekeeper in 2004. He is also implicated in the murder of two aid workers in 2005 and numerous attacks on villages in Ituri.

Human Rights Watch says troops under Ntaganda’s command killed civilians from the Lendu and Ngiti ethnic groups in the village of Songolo in 2002 and attacked the gold mining town of Mongbwalu where 800 civilians died.

Ntaganda told journalists he doesn’t understand why he has been targeted by the ICC.

“Indeed, I fought in the war in Ituri, but there were other leaders. I was simply a chief of the staff,” he said.

“I was not an important personality in our movement and wonder why I should be pursued. It is simply because I am not an Ituri native.”

Ntaganda said that while he is not afraid to appear before the ICC, he would not go to The Hague while North Kivu remains in turmoil.

He claims he still has supporters in Ituri, only now recovering from the brutal conflict there that was compared in intensity to the Rwandan genocide.

“There are positive things I did in Ituri. If you ask people, they will tell you that I am the one who ended war and nobody else,” he said.

“I used to tell them that war was not a good thing and that we should meet and talk. I am sure if I have to go to The Hague, so many people from Ituri will be ready to defend my case.”

Jacques Kahorha is an IWPR contributor in Goma

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