Democratic Republic of Congo rebel Bosco Ntaganda, wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for suspected war crimes, has surrendered to the US embassy in Kigali, Rwanda’s foreign minister said.
“We have learned today that Bosco Ntaganda entered Rwanda and surrendered to US Embassy in Kigali,” Louise Mushikiwabo said in a message posted on her Twitter account on Monday.
The US State Department has also issued a confirmation, saying Ntaganda asked to be turned over to the ICC and that they were working to facilitate his request.
“I can confirm that Bosco Ntaganda… walked into the US embassy in Kigali this morning. He specifically asked to be transferred to the ICC in The Hague,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
Ntaganda faces charges of conscripting child soldiers, murder, ethnic persecution and rape in eastern DR Congo.
Neither Rwanda nor the US has an obligation to hand Ntaganda over to The Hague-based ICC since they are not
parties to the Rome Statute that established the court.
The ICC is pushing for Ntaganda to be transfered to The Hague, Al Jazeera has learnt.
“We are in contact with the relevant authorities to put in place all necessary measures for a swift surrender to the ICC,” Fadi El-Abdullah, a spokesperson for the ICC, told Al Jazeera’s Nazanine Moshiri via email.
A state which is not a signatory of the Rome Statute can cooperating with the court on a voluntary basis.
A year-long uprising in the resource-rich North Kivu province by M23 rebels was partly triggered by President Joseph Kabila’s plan to arrest Ntaganda on the international charges.
Fighting between the M23 and Congolese forces has displaced 500,000 people since last May, according to the UN refugee agency.
Ntaganda was integrated into the Congolese army with rebels as part of a 2009 peace deal.
The ICC has been seeking Ntaganda’s arrest since 2006, but Kabila resisted acting on the warrant until April last year, saying Ntaganda was a linchpin in the fragile peace.
The alleged atrocities he has been charged with were committed in the Ituri region in the northeastern DR Congo in 2002-2003.
Ntaganda, who is believed to be in his 40s, is accused of having once again recruited under-age fighters in the North Kivu region during the rebellion last year.
According to UN investigators, Ntaganda has managed to amass considerable wealth by running a large extortion empire in North Kivu, running rogue checkpoints and taxing the area’s many mines.