In a sudden policy shift, yesterday President Kabila called for the arrest of former rebel leader General Bosco “Terminator” Ntaganda. Previously, the Kabila government resisted international pressure to arrest General NTAGANDA due to his pivotal role in the peace agreement signed with the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) in March 2009.
This change in policy comes after hundreds of General Ntaganda’s supporters defected from the FARDC. The defection resulted from increased pressure by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on the Government of the DRC to hand over General Ntaganda, who is wanted for conscripting children into his army during the Second Congo War.
Last week, President Kabila reportedly sent over 500 soldiers from the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) to the troubled North Kivu Province to counter the mutiny.
While President Kabila has changed his tune regarding General Ntaganda’s arrest, he still does not support an ICC trial. In his statement on Wednesday, President Kabila announced that General Ntaganda and his supporters would face a military trial in the DRC for treason. This policy is likely to cause a turf war between the ICC and the Government of the DRC. The ICC has already stated that if the DRC wants to try General Ntaganda domestically, Kinshasa must submit a formal request to do so. But President Kabila has public announced, “I do not work for the international community.”
Of course, this is assuming that General Ntaganda can even be arrested. Despite a United Nations travel ban since 2005, he has reportedly crossed into Rwanda several times over the past seven years. With his residence so close to the border, strong ties to the Kagame regime, and Rwandan heritage, in all likelihood, General Ntaganda may not even be in the DRC anymore, but back on Rwandan soil.
According to Congo Siasa, General Ntaganda was on Congolese soil as late as Tuesday, while high-level discussions were underway between the Government of the DRC and the Government of Rwanda regarding the fate of the former rebel and his followers.
The official stance of the Kagame government is still unclear. As of Tuesday, they were still calling for the March 2009 agreement for integration of the CNDP. But after last week’s mutiny and President Kabila’s call for arrests, it is obvious that this agreement has been nullified.
Ultimately, as this tug of war between the Government of the DRC and the ICC unfolds, questions regarding Westphalian sovereignty will take center stage. Kinshasa has a valid claim to try traitors within its own borders. However, the violations of the Geneva Convention should not be ignored. At present, it appears that the Kabila government only intends to bring General Ntaganda to trial over his recent defection. This still leaves the charges of enlisting child soldiers unanswered.