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DR Congo warlord Bosco Ntaganda surrenders in Kigali

Fugitive warlord's surrender marks end to bloody career spanning nearly two decades of conflict

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 March, 2013, 3:59am

Notorious Democratic Republic of Congo rebel Bosco Ntaganda, wanted by the International Criminal Court for a string of alleged atrocities and known as "The Terminator", has surrendered to the US embassy in Kigali in a surprise development.

According to the Congolese government, Ntaganda, said to be a key leader of the M23 rebel group, crossed into Rwanda on Saturday along with hundreds of other rebels fleeing violence with a rival faction of the mainly Tutsi movement. He handed himself in at the embassy on Monday.

The man known as "The Terminator" for his love of front-line action is said to be among fighters belonging to an M23 faction led by former political leader Jean-Marie Runiga.

Ntaganda and Runiga's faction had been fighting rivals loyal to the group's military chief Sultani Makenga.

Rwandan-born Ntaganda is an ex-general in the Congolese army but is seen as the main instigator of a mutiny by ex-rebels who had been integrated in the regular forces in 2009, but defected in April last year, forming the M23 movement.

A UN report in November said the M23's "de facto chain of command" includes Ntaganda and culminates with Rwandan Defence Minister James Kabarebe.

It piled further evidence against a man wanted by the ICC on a grim list of charges including recruiting child soldiers, sex slavery, murder and pillaging. The ICC issued arrest warrants against Ntaganda in 2006 over crimes committed in the northeastern Ituri region in 2002-2003.

He was again accused of having recruited under-age fighters in the province of North Kivu in the 2012 rebellion. Human Rights Watch said in May Ntaganda had forcibly recruited at least 149 boys and young men into his militia.

In an anecdote showing Ntaganda's willingness to get his hands dirty, one woman from Birambizo in North Kivu told HRW that Ntaganda himself visited her village to recruit.

"He asked us to give our children, our students, to him to fight. He came to our village himself," the woman said.

In the words of a child soldier who testified against Ntaganda in The Hague, he is known as someone who "kills people easily".

Born in 1973 in Rwanda but brought up in the DR Congo, the towering Ntaganda -who has a penchant for pencil moustaches and leather cowboy-style hats - has enjoyed a life of fine dining and freedom despite the ICC warrant.

"Ntaganda has boldly walked around the restaurants and tennis courts of Goma flaunting his impunity like a medal of honour while engaging in ruthless human rights abuses," said HRW senior Africa researcher Anneke Van Woudenberg Van Woudenberg.

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