KINSHASA, Congo (AP) — In a marked turnaround, Congo’s president called Wednesday for the arrest of a notorious ex-warlord and army general, who has been allowed to walk freely despite an international indictment, an official said.
Bosco Ntaganda is accused of using child soldiers for fighting in Ituri, in northeastern Congo, from 2002 to 2003. He was first indicted on war crimes charges in 2006 by the Netherlands-based International Criminal Court.
President Joseph Kabila said Ntaganda should be arrested and face a military tribunal in Congo, presidential spokesman Andre Ngwej told The Associated Press by telephone. Kabila made the comments during a meeting with community leaders in the country’s remote eastern province of North Kivu.
In the past, Kabila had refused calls to hand over Ntaganda, arguing his cooperation was essential to keeping the peace in the troubled east of the country where numerous local militias and foreign rebels operate. Ntaganda was integrated into the Congolese army along with his men.
The integration has allowed large portions of eastern Congo to come under the dominion of Ntaganda’s troops, who are largely from the Tutsi ethnic group and are accused of brutalizing other communities.
Kabila’s announcement follows clashes this week between troops loyal to Ntaganda and other soldiers in the Congolese army in the eastern town of Rutshuru, according to the army spokesman for eastern Congo, Maj. Sylvain Ikenge.
Ikenge said that a colonel and a major responsible for the mutiny had fled into the bush with a small number of troops. “But everything is calm in Rutshuru today and 90 percent of the troops have remained loyal to the government,” he said.
Human Rights Watch expert on Congo Anneke van Woudenberg, whose organization has been fighting for Ntaganda’s arrest, welcomed the announcement. She said, however, that Kabila spoke in Swahili and that she was still waiting for the full translation in order to ascertain the level of Kabila’s commitment.
“Indeed, he seems to be alluding to Bosco’s arrest. What is significant is that President Kabila has changed his mind on Bosco,” she said. “It’s a welcome step in the right direction. We now need to turn this into action.”
Source: Associated Press
Associated Press writers Michelle Faul and Rukmini Callimachi contributed to this report from Dakar, Senegal.