Congo’s “Terminator” Turns Himself in to ICC

Although the International Criminal Court has welcomed Bosco Ntaganda, both the U.S. and Rwanda are stumped about what to do now.

Posted: 03/19/2013 10:29 AM EDT

(Photo: AP Photo/Alain Wandimoyi, File)

Democratic Republic of Congo’s notorious rebel leader and the “most wanted man in Africa” Bosco Ntaganda walked into the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda Monday and turned himself in to stand trial on war crimes at the International Criminal Court.

But now that the initial shock and relief has passed, diplomats from both Rwanda and the U.S. are wondering: Whose responsibility is he now?

"Congolese citizen, U.S. territory, going to the Hague is not Rwanda's business," Rwanda's Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said on Twitter Monday.

An unnamed U.S. official also expressed similar confusion over Ntaganda’s status to Reuters.

"He's on the compound and we have a place for him to sleep but obviously we're not a hotel and we don't have a guest room," said the embassy official. "I don't think we have any real idea of when things will happen. We are still figuring out how it's going to work."

The conundrum highlights one of the main hindrances to the operation of the young, international judicial body. Since its creation in 2002, only 72 countries have agreed to be bound by the court’s rules — and neither Rwanda nor the U.S is on that list.

The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for the ruthless commander, dubbed "The Terminator," in 2006, and like many others on the court’s wanted list, he has ignored the warrant for many years. Then, in July 2012, a second warrant was issued against Ntaganda for war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, rape and sexual slavery, pillage and persecution.

Although it is unclear why Ntaganda decided to turn himself in now, analysts say a recent split with Congo’s M23 rebels, with whom he was affiliated, may be part of the reason.

“I think justice now has a chance to prevail, now that he has handed himself in," Congo's U.K. ambassador, Kikaya Bin Karubi, told the BBC. "The most wanted criminal in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has seen that he has no other option now, and the best option for him is to go and face the music."

Ntaganda’s war crimes warrant stems from his alleged involvement in recruiting and enlisting child soldiers in 2002 and 2003 when he served as military commander for the rebel Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC). His former ally, Thomas Lubanga, became the first person convicted by the ICC in 2012 when he was tried for similar crimes.

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