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Exclusive: Fearing death, Congo’s ‘Terminator’ fled with help of family

Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda looks on during his first appearance before judges at the ICC

Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda looks on during his first appearance before judges at the ICC

Facing defeat by a rival rebel and fearing death at the hands of Rwandan troops, Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda quietly slipped into Rwanda on a small path with a single escort to turn himself in at the U.S. Embassy in Kigali, according to a U.N. report.

Details of the March 18 surrender of Ntaganda, who evaded arrest on international war crimes charges for seven years, were contained in the confidential interim report by the U.N. Group of Experts to the Security Council’s Congo sanctions committee. The report was seen by Reuters on Friday.

Ntaganda, a Rwandan-born Tutsi rebel known as “the Terminator,” is accused of murder, rape, sexual slavery and recruiting child soldiers during 15 years of rebellion in resource-rich eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

It was not known how Ntaganda made his way from eastern Congo to the Rwandan capital, where he had simply walked into the U.S. Embassy and asked diplomats to transfer him to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

The U.N. experts said his secret three-day journey followed after a violent split in the M23 rebel group weeks earlier. Ntaganda’s defeat by rival M23 commander Sultani Makenga was aided by Rwandan officials and demobilized Rwandan soldiers, said the report.

Ntaganda “clandestinely crossed the border into Rwanda using a small path in the Gasizi area with one escort,” it said.

“He reached Kigali with the help of his family and arrived at the United States Embassy on 18 March where he requested to be transferred to the ICC without prior knowledge of Rwandan authorities,” according to the 43-page report.

Rwanda subsequently arrested an individual accused of helping Ntaganda escape and interrogated the warlord’s wife and brother, the experts said.

The career of Ntaganda, who has fought for rebels, militias and armies in both Rwanda and Congo in the last 20 years, reflects the tangled and shifting allegiances of a territory that has been repeatedly traumatized by genocide and violence.

Ntaganda said he was not guilty of war crimes during his first appearance at the International Criminal Court in March.

M23 is a Tutsi-dominated group of former Congolese soldiers that has demanded political concessions from President Joseph Kabila’s government.

M23 CRIPPLED AFTER NTAGANDA DEFEAT

The U.N. experts report in October named Ntaganda as the leader controlling the M23 rebellion on the ground and added that he and other commanders received “direct military orders” from senior Rwandan military figures acting under instructions from Defense Minister James Kabarebe.

Rwanda vehemently denied supporting the M23, accusing the world of trying to blame it for Congo’s unremitting troubles.

The latest experts report found “continuous – but limited – support to M23 from within Rwanda” and cooperation between elements of the Congolese military and a Rwandan Hutu rebel group against the M23 rebels.

Ntaganda had a network of contacts within Rwanda that he used to support his M23 faction against Makenga after the pair had disagreed over the management of M23, the experts said.

“To halt Ntaganda’s activities, Rwandan authorities arrested some of the individuals who were part of this network,” the experts said.

“Some Rwandan officers also provided limited material support to Makenga as he sought to defeat Ntaganda,” found the report. “While some Rwandan officers had ensured Ntaganda of their assistance, in reality they had decide to support Makenga.

“Rwandan officers also fed disinformation to Ntaganda which precipitated his defeat. Former M23 soldiers who fought alongside Ntaganda reported that soldiers of the (Rwandan Defense Force) special forces that were deployed along the border provided Ntaganda with ammunition at the outset of fighting, which made him believe that he enjoyed RDF support.”

As his troops began to run low on ammunition after two weeks of fighting, Ntaganda fled into Rwanda, where he feared Rwandan soldiers deployed on the border would kill him. The U.N. experts said that Makenga had also ordered his troops kill Ntaganda.

It was estimated that about 200 rebels from both sides were killed during the M23 split, the report said. Almost 800 rebels loyal to Ntaganda also fled into Rwanda after their defeat. The experts said Makenga was left with some 1,500 fighters spread across a 270 square mile area (700 sq km).

“Moreover M23 has lost the support of leaders and communities which had supported Ntaganda in northern Rwanda and stopped benefiting from the recruitment and financial networks he had established,” the report said.

“The movement is unable to control its entire territory and suffers from poor morale and scores of desertions,” it said.

Source: Reuters

July 1, 2013   No Comments

Which way for Rwanda? Three scenarios

David Himbara

David Himbara

By David Himbara

With a troubled history of transition from one ruler to the next, Rwanda is once again at the crossroad. Posturing and not genuine debate on what lies towards and beyond 2017 is the order of the day. Open and honest discussion is alien to the land of a thousand hills. I am sharing here three possible scenarios on what might transpire in future – from the “dream outcome” to “doomsday.” I love to hear your thoughts on this matter.

* Scenario 1 – Dream Outcome or the Burma’s Miracle

The “Dream Outcome” or the “Burma Miracle” refers to what is taking place in that country in the recent past. The deeply-entrenched Burmese dictatorship somehow became wiser and started to play less suicidal politics. For example the regime released in November 2010 the opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, from a 15-year detention. Aung San Suu Kyi is now reviving her political party in a country that is rehabilitated both regionally and internationally. The Burma route for Rwanda would see the current regime sharply change course by freeing political prisoners and adopting a culture of dialogue. The iron-fisted approach to politics would be tamed leading to electoral competition with zero possibility for life-presidency via constitutional manipulation in 2017.

* Scenario 2 – Less Violent Benevolent Dictatorship for Self-preservation

In this scenario, the current regime would attempt to save itself as “a benevolent dictatorship” that exercises power not for the good of the ruling elites and cronies but for “the good of citizens.” The regime would open to its critics, get rid of hard-liners, get out of private business monopolies, and generally present itself as a humble governor on behalf of “the people.” The regime would appease its critics but not go the distance of competitive politics. The incumbent head of state would not run in 2017 but would field a stooge that is manipulated from behind the scene. This scenario would buy the regime a bit of time in terms of survival even beyond 2017 in different guise.

* Scenario 3 – Doomsday and Descent into “Invincibility”

In this scenario, the current regime would change the constitution to allow the incumbent head of state to become dictator-for-life. This would result into the hardening of iron-fist politics. Believing to be incapable of being overcome or defeated or “unconquerable,” the regime would become even more drunk with power. Like in the cartoon character “invincible” the regime would see itself as possessing superhuman strength. This is doomsday because the end in unpredictable subject to the laws of gravity. Whatever goes up comes down.

Dear readers, what do you see ahead for Rwanda out of three scenarios? Do you see other scenarios? Share your views privately or in the open forum.

Source: The Rwandan

July 1, 2013   No Comments

Exclusive – Rwanda army officers aiding M23 rebels in Congo – UN experts

An M23 rebel trainer walks behind recruits during a training session in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo - May 16, 2013

An M23 rebel trainer walks behind recruits during a training session in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo – May 16, 2013

Military officers from Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo are fuelling violence in eastern Congo despite pledges by the countries to foster peace, according to a confidential U.N. experts’ report seen by Reuters on Friday.

A rebel group in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo continues to recruit fighters in neighbouring Rwanda with the aid of sympathetic Rwandan military officers, the U.N. Group of Experts said in its interim report to the Security Council’s Congo sanctions committee.

The U.N. Group of Experts also said elements of the Congolese military have cooperated with a Rwandan Hutu rebel group against the Congolese M23 rebel group, a Tutsi-dominated rebellion of former Congolese soldiers that has demanded political concessions from President Joseph Kabila’s government.

The allegations are likely to displease Kigali and Kinshasa, which have signed a U.N.-backed peace agreement and pledged to cooperate on bringing peace and stability to mineral-rich eastern Congo, where millions of people have been killed and many more displaced in decades of conflict.

Recruitment and other forms of support for the M23 rebels have waned in recent months, though the insurgent forces still pose a security threat in eastern Congo, said the U.N. Group of Experts.

“Since the outset of its current mandate, the group has to date found no indication of support to the rebels from within Uganda, and has gathered evidence of continuous – but limited – support to M23 from within Rwanda,” the report said.

“The group sent a letter to the government of Rwanda on 14 June 2013 asking for clarification about this support and looks forward to a reply,” the U.N. experts said in the 43-page report.

They said current and former M23 members reported that Rwandan army officers or their representatives have crossed the border into Chanzu or Rumangabo in eastern Congo to meet with Makenga.

The report said 14 former M23 soldiers told the Group of Experts that Rwandans who deserted M23 and tried to go home to Rwanda were “forcibly returned to M23” by Rwandan army officers.

Rwanda’s deputy U.N. ambassador, Olivier Nduhungirehe, rejected the allegations. “Now that the GoE report was leaked, can you name any single RDF officer mentioned as aiding the M23? NONE!” he wrote on his Twitter feed.

Rwanda has previously complained about the experts. In March Kigali refused to issue entry visas to two panel members, describing them as biased, Nduhungirehe told Reuters at the time.

CONGOLESE TROOPS WORK WITH HUTU REBELS

Collaboration between elements of the Rwandan military and M23 continue, it said. “The Group received information that M23 commanders have regularly met with RDF (Rwandan Defence Forces) officers,” the report said.

“Three former M23 officers, a former M23 cadre, and several local authorities told the Group that from March through May 2013, they had witnessed M23 Colonels Kaina and Yusuf Mboneza with RDF officers at the border of Kabuhanga,” it said.

But it said that since the brief fall of provincial capital Goma in November 2012 the Group of Experts has not received evidence of full Rwandan army units supporting M23. Also, the March surrender of former M23 leader Bosco Ntaganda has hurt the rebels’ morale and sparked desertions, it said.-

Last year the experts accused Rwanda’s defence minister of commanding the M23 rebellion, which it said was being armed by Rwanda and Uganda, both of which sent troops to aid the insurgency.

The latest report said there was no current signs of Ugandan government support for M23 but noted that limited recruitment activities by the M23 continued on Ugandan territory. It added that Ugandan officials have thwarted several attempts at M23 recruitment.

The allegations come as the United Nations, which has a large peacekeeping force known as MONUSCO in the region, prepares to deploy a special intervention brigade in eastern Congo. That brigade’s goal is to aggressively search out and destroy armed groups operating in eastern Congo.

M23 has been generating income of around $180,000 a month from taxes – $200 to $1,000 per truck depending on the load – they exact on the population in the areas where they have been active, the report said.

“The Group notes that sanctioned individual Col. Innocent Kaina of M23 remains engaged in the recruitment of children,” it said.

The experts said that they have also received information indicating collaboration between the Congolese military and FDLR rebels, the remnants of Hutu killers who carried out the 1994 genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda, in North Kivu.

The Congolese U.N. mission was not immediately available for comment on the report.

Source: Reuters

July 1, 2013   1 Comment