Obama’s Special Envoy Pressures Kinshasa to Deliver Bosco Ntaganda to the ICC

Bosco ntaganda
Bosco ntaganda: Ituri and KIvu War Criminal

An arrest warrant for Ntaganda has been issued from the ICC prosecutor for crimes committed in Ituri, where he was the close contact of Thomas Lubanga, who is currently in detention in The Hague. Nkundabatware was never asked to hand Ntaganda over while Ntaganda still worked for him. It was when Ntaganda turned away from Nkundabatware – when he found himself alone and living under surveillance in Rwanda – that calls were placed to demand his arrest.

By Joachim Diana G.

Never before has such controversial data been used to exercise political pressure as in the case of Laurent Nkunda’s former second-in-command, Bosco Ntaganda. Although the U.S. does not recognize the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Americans still hope to send Ntaganda, a lesser criminal than Nkunda, to the ICC.

Howard Wolpe is the special representative of U.S. President Barack Obama in the Great Lakes region of Africa. He is sojourning in this area, particularly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Peace in this part of the continent is apparently of utmost interest to Barack Obama.

Members of the State Department have arrived in this region one after another, at an unusual pace. Howard Wolpe arrived in the DRC only three months after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit, which was widely covered in the media. The American adjunct secretary of state in charge of displaced persons also visited the region, including Kinshasa.

The American under-secretary of defense also came to the DRC during this period. It seems that practically every month American officials have visited the DRC.

What should be Expected from these Visits?

This pace is peculiar. What does it foreshadow? Hillary Clinton has become aware of the humanitarian disaster that eastern DRC has experienced. She even almost touched on the origin of the situation by stating that the estimated 5 million deaths during the last conflicts should not remain unpunished. She suggested the idea of a special tribunal for the DRC, an idea which has been acknowledged more than once in past years, but which has never been implemented. There have already been special tribunals in Sierra Leone, Rwanda and Yugoslavia; it is stunning that the DRC has not benefited from this type of jurisprudence.

We are surprised that the more than 5 million Congolese killed in armed conflict, and the aggression with which all the conventions of the U.N. Charter were violated do not preoccupy a world enamored with peace and justice. When the American secretary of state spoke loudly and strongly of it, we had reason to believe that, henceforth, the international community, and particularly the U.S., would change the lenses through which it views the Congolese situation.

Obama Risks Treading Well-Beaten Paths

We are surprised to note that the U.S. is poised to overlook Congo’s real problems in order to side with certain so-called international NGOs. These NGOs incorrectly predicted that peace in the DRC, particularly in the east of the country, would arrive with Ntaganda’s arrest and his transfer to The Hague. It seems that this is the American doctrine Obama’s special representative has come to repeat to Joseph Kabila. The United States now swears to only be targeting Ntaganda, the former chief of staff of the National Congress for People’s Defense (CNDP). The CNDP is the rebel movement that Laurent Nkundabatware directed in the east of the DRC.

Now, Kinshasa has never refused to collaborate with the ICC. The problem is that, as a sovereign state, it wants to be able to choose the timing of its collaboration, especially when facing matters of its survival, such as the security situation in the eastern DRC. What is the benefit in handing over Ntaganda if hostilities are renewed with even more force in the East? Certain warlords will use Ntaganda’s arrest as a pretext to unearth the battle-axe. Insistence by the U.S. to arrest Ntaganda does not take into account the security related interests of the DRC.

Although they may not want to believe it, certain NGOs know that Ntaganda is an important element to peace in this part of Congolese territory. Curiously, although the NGOs seem to believe very strongly in international justice, they have never pressured the U.S. to ratify the Rome Convention. Until the U.S. ratifies this treaty, it is not subject to the ICC’s jurisdiction.

The Reasons of the State

The fact that the U.S has not ratified the Rome Convention clearly means that there are situations that could prevent a state from fulfilling its duty to bringing about international justice. The situation in the DRC is one such example, as the arrest of one person wanted by the ICC can worsen the security problems for millions of Congolese.

The trial will have the same value, whether we judge him today or tomorrow. The trials of the Congolese who preceded Ntaganda in The Hague are only beginning. We are not saying that the ICC judges will be twiddling their thumbs, trying to keep themselves busy while waiting for Ntaganda. But this is why whoever does not understand Kabila’s concerns does not work in the interest of the Congolese.

As for problems, the Congolese have many of them. Today, whoever is inclined to help must use its aid to hunt the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). That is what Germany has just done. Large numbers of people, fleeing the blind violence of the FDLR, find themselves in displacement camps. Stopping the FDLR is more important than any type of humanitarian aid, as the only way to really help those displaced is to clear the way for a safe return to their respective villages.

The Debate on MONUC’s Retreat

At the moment, if the DRC wants to once again launch the debate on a problem as serious as the retreat of the Mission of the United Nations Organization in the DRC (MONUC), Kinshasa needs to be saved from certain lies. Among these lies, is the idea that Joseph Kabila no longer supports the presence of MONUC. This is not the truth. It is not because Kabila no longer supports MONUC that it will leave, but rather because MONUC must leave that Kabila wants to talk about it.

The 50th anniversary of the DRC’s independence has nothing to do with the retreat of MONUC. The country has celebrated more than one independence anniversary without feeling disturbed by MONUC’s presence, as it has been in the Congo since 1999.

That Kinshasa wishes to engage in debate about the retreat of MONUC should not be surprising. What is rather surprising is that many are stunned that we are speaking of MONUC’s retreat. Does that mean there are people who thought MONUC would never leave this country? Never have the Congolese leaders given the impression that they felt as if they were students under supervision.

Nevertheless, that is the idea certain NGOs have. We want those who really want to help the DRC to join the debate about the retreat of MONUC. They need to speak up against the agitated cries of those who cannot see the DRC without MONUC. This group of people see the situation in the DRC in the frame of “no war, no work” and are acting in their own self-interest, rather than that of the Congolese.
Translated By Claire Lauterbach