Bosco Ntaganda, a leader of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s M23 rebel group who is wanted by the International Criminal Court, has fled to neighbouring Rwanda, the Congolese government said Sunday.
“He eventually crossed (the border) on Saturday… he is in Rwanda today,” government spokesman Lambert Mende told AFP in the capital Kinshasa.
According to the authorities in Kigali, around 600 fighters from the M23 group, which has challenged the Congolese government in the east of the country for close to a year, have crossed into Rwanda since Friday.
Mende said however that Ntaganda, a former general who is widely seen as the main instigator of the M23 mutiny last year, entered Rwanda from a different crossing point.
Fighters from one faction of the divided M23 movement explained as they sough refuge in Rwanda that pressure on the ground had intensified of late and that ammunition had run out.
Rwanda has been accused by Kinshasa and a panel of UN experts of masterminding, arming and even commanding the M23’s rebellion in the resource-rich east of DR Congo.
Kigali, which has denied those accusations, said Saturday that the fighters who had crossed the border had been disarmed.
Kigali, which in turn accuses its neighbour of sheltering and supporting a Rwandan rebel group thought to include perpetrators of the 1994 genocide, signed a deal aimed at ending the crisis at a summit in Addis Ababa last month.
“Of course Kigali knows what it has to do because it signed the Addis Ababa framework agreement,” Lambert Mende said Sunday.
“That comes with a clear commitment: no asylum, no welcoming of criminals sought by international courts, no shelter for those who are under UN sanctions,” he said. “We are waiting to see how Kigali will stand by these pledges.”
The Rwandan-born Ntaganda, nicknamed “The Terminator”, faces charges at the ICC in The Hague on several counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The alleged crimes were committed in the Ituri region in 2002-2003 but Ntaganda is accused of having once again recruited under-age fighters in Nord-Kivu last year.