Painting by Cheri Samba

Lokuta eyaka na ascenseur, kasi vérité eyei na escalier mpe ekomi. Lies come up in the elevator; the truth takes the stairs but gets here eventually. - Koffi Olomide

Ésthetique eboma vélo. Aesthetics will kill a bicycle. - Felix Wazekwa

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Bosco surrender: more questions than answers

There has been a lot of conjecture and speculation surrounding Bosco's "surrender" to the US embassy on Tuesday morning. In recent weeks, various parties to the conflict have been purposely spreading false information, which has made it difficult to parse the facts. Here are my own thoughts on some of these points.

Why did Bosco surrender?

His time was up. On February 24, an internal battle had broken out among the M23, pitting Bosco's wing against that of Sultani Makenga (for more information about Bosco's career and the divisions within the M23 see the Usalama Project's briefing here). While Bosco led a large group of soldiers––at least 500 were reported to have crossed the border on 14 March––he was short on ammunition. After weeks of fighting, he decided to run.

The larger and perhaps more important question is: Why did the M23 implode? Divisions existed since the group's creation in April 2012, driven by ethnic considerations (Bosco is from the Gogwe sub-ethnic group, many of Makenga's officers are Banyajomba), historical differences (Makenga was close to Laurent Nkunda, whom Bosco replaced in January 2009), and struggles over money and power (each carried out promotions behind the other's back and set up separate tax structures).

The final straw, however, appears to have been the looming possibility of a peace deal, or at least Bosco's perception that one might take place. With an international arrest warrant looming over his head, and declarations by the Congolese government concerning his arrest, he knew that he would have no chance of re-integrating the Congolese army.

Nonetheless, important questions persist. Allegations abound, for example, that President Kabila exacerbated the divisions with bribes. But which side did he bribe––each accuses the other for having received blood money.

Rwanda's role is also curious. Reliable reports point to Rwandan backing for the M23 up until the capture of Goma on November 20, 2012. Since then, however, support appears to have declined (perhaps also because there has been a de facto truce with the Congolese army during the Kampala negotiations). However, if the Rwandan army had wanted to prevent the implosion, they most likely could have. Also, if they had wanted to solve Bosco's ammo problem, they could have easily sent bullets and mortar rounds across the border. So why didn't it? Had the aid cuts affected its view of the conflict, and the M23 squabbles looked like a way out?

How did Bosco get to the US embassy?

Again, there appear to be more questions than answers. It is obvious that Bosco thought his choice was the ICC or probable death––but at the hands of whom? And was it his choice to make?

The first version, supported by many current and former M23 soldiers, has Bosco crossing the border along with the rest of his troops, probably on 14 or 15 March, being arrested by the Rwandan army and debriefed. They then decided that they didn't want yet another Congolese rebel under house arrest in Rwanda––Laurent Nkunda and Jules Mutebutsi are enough of a headache, and Bosco's ICC warrant would certainly make him a more difficult case.

But why would the Rwandan government hand Bosco over to the US embassy, where he immediately asked to be transferred to the ICC? The Rwandan government opposes the ICC, and is probably concerned by some of the revelations that Bosco could make on the stand. After all, Kigali backed the UPC armed group for whose crimes Bosco is now answering, as well as the CNDP and M23. If this version is correct, it may be that Rwanda was not left any good options and preferred Bosco being sent to the ICC than having him sit around under house arrest in Rwanda (or worse). After all, Bosco's former UPC boss Thomas Lubanga stood trial for 5 years without any revelations being made about outside support to his group.

The second version, supported by ex-CNDP officers, diplomats and Congolese and Rwandan intelligence agents, suggests that Bosco slipped across the border, evading detection and eventually arriving at the US embassy in downtown Kigali. According to this version, he took advantage of his contacts in the Rwandan army, as well as his ethnic kin and family in Ruhengeri, to escape arrest. There have even been reports of Rwandan intelligence agents being arrested for failing in their duties to detect him.

True? Hard to say––Bosco does have friends and family in Rwanda, as well as a lot of money. But if he wanted to hand himself over to the ICC, why not just go to the MONUSCO base in Kibati (just north of Goma), which was under his control up until the last minute? It would probably have been safer for him. And could he really escape detection by Rwandan security services, who have extensive contacts with M23 members and good control over their own country?

Will he be transferred to the ICC?

Yes. There has been a lot of conjecture about the fact that the US is not signatory of the Rome Statute; Congolese analysts have also been suggesting that since the US is an ally to Rwanda, they might not want to transfer him, or that he will have to get from the US embassy to the airport, going through Rwandan territory.

At the end, none of this matters or is accurate. The Obama administration has not signed the ICC (it thinks it would be difficult to push it through domestically), but it backs the court. The expansion of the Rewards for Justice program last year to include individuals indicted by the ICC was an expression of that support––and it put a $5 million reward on Bosco's head (no one is thought to have picked it up, however). And President Kagame has now said that it will not block Bosco's extradition. So it's just a matter of time.

What will the impact be of his transfer to the ICC?

In part, it strengthens Makenga's hand––he is now rid of a large faction of his officers and political leaders who had been a thorn in his side. While he has probably lost over a third of his troops to death or defection, he has rationalized his military chain of command and now has more reliable politicians to represent him in Kampala. While he is now rid of all of the officers with serious legal problems (except himself), it is unclear whether this will result in a peace deal in Kampala. M23 delegates say that they can't accept the terms proposed by Kabila, which amount to integration with almost nothing in return. In particular, they insist on good ranks, political positions, the return of refugees, and a generous amnesty. As one of Makenga's officers told me today, just before a meeting of the officer corps, "Alituambia: vita ingali. Kungali njia mrefu." (He told us: there is still war. The road is still long).

On the other hand, Rwanda emerges with a boost to its reputation. While it isn't clear what role it played in Bosco's surrender, at the very least they signed off on the implosion of the M23, which makes it look like their are more part of the solution than the problem. In recent weeks, the World Bank has disbursed $50 million of the cut aid, and other donors may soon follow suit.

What will happen at the ICC? Bosco is reportedly more of a slam dunk that other cases currently being tried. Given his direct involvement in military operations, there is strong evidence against him for the Ituri crimes (rape, recruitment of child soldiers, murder, pillage). In addition, the prosecutor will seek to add charges related to his time as chief of staff of the CNDP (2006-2009).

So, in sum, Bosco's arrest won't bring peace to the eastern Congo, but Bosco's arrest does spell a victory in the battle against impunity and the dismantling to one of the barriers to a peace process in the country.


muana congo said...

On AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY and CONGO (a non-expert view)

The USA is in/a DANGER. It is no longer America “the inspiration” of the world. It is no more America of Wall Mart and Henry Ford (industry and inventiveness), it now America of Bernie Murdoff and Goldman Sachs (thievery and FED-sponsored gambling). Today American foreign policy is no more based on “guiding principles” in pursuance of “truly” American vital national interests. The US foreign policy clearly has been “hijacked” to serve “immediate private monetary interests” of a well known mafia in Wall Street (see Dick Cheney,” his” Halliburton and “his” Iraq war).
PROBLEM is: this “ETHICAL DEREGULATION” has irremediably caused the FALL of previous super-empires (Greece, Rome, Mali, Kongo…). Thank God, America may plod on a bit longer as a superpower not because of the economy (deficit-ridden and actually broke) or military might (mutual destruction assured now), but luckily because of the most “potent and distinctive” weapon of the USA that makes it the microcosm and the envy of the world: the “irresistible AMERICAN CULTURE”. Top brass Russians, Chinese or Africans send their children to study there. Many may hate Bush or Clinton, but not Nat King Cole or 2Pac Shakur. North Korea Kim Jong Un idolises American Basketball as did Hugo Chavez American Baseball. Priceless!

That said, the “personalisation” of “US Congo-vs-Kagame policy” is even worse. I don’t buy that hogwash of somehow America absurdly backing Kagame against all its “founding principles” just because there are a couple of Rwandan policemen in Darfur. First, there are many African countries that do by far more, yet the US has a different relationship with them. Nigeria has more peacekeepers around and seen scores of their soldiers killed in the very Darfur. Kenya just single-handedly drove out “in fine” Al-Shabaab in Somalia. So, people should find another reason to back Kagame. That Kagame’s state building story is just as weak.

The TRUTH is Kagame is a mere African mercenary of the Wanshington interface (Madeleine Albright, Herman Cohen…) of that “Wall Street mafia” who oppose the Dodd-Franck Act on Congo “blood minerals”, that in fact President Obama and progressist American lawmakers initiated and support.

Lastly and more important, the DRC people and gov. should understand that in such a context (hijacked American foreign policy supporting Kagame no matter what), “trying to please for so long has proved to be too hard” and they should explore other avenues and rely on themselves. It is “beautiful” that all Congolese (pouvoir, visionary opposition, civil society with Catholic Church first) have finally realised that this was an existential struggle for Congolese nationhood, dignity and prosperity; far beyond petty political cleavages.


It is amazing how the newly elected Chinese President Xi Jinping chooses Africa for his “second” foreign visit. And he does not just have an after-thought/hasty trip in one country and make a speech. Like his predecessors, he visits more than 3 Africans countries signing “real” deals to develop Africa. That is MAXIMUM RESPECT for Africans. What are Africans to do?


tomasaquin said...

@jason stearns
"he is now rid of all of the officers with serious legal problems (except himself), "

What happened to Innocent Kaina/"India Queen"??
He supposedly defected from the Bosco faction to Makenga and given his vast military experience, I doubt that he is not playing any major role in the M23 anymore.

June Sina said...

More questions than answers,yes and who are the questions,accusations & doubts directed to-ofcourse Rwanda.Amazing Mr Stearns.

Rich said...

tomasquin -

Ref # "What happened to Innocent Kaina/"India Queen"??"

Accordin to M Gouby of AP I Kaina must be with S Makenga.

Here is what she reported:

"The operations were led by Col. Innocent "India Queen" Kahina, a battle-hardened officer of Tutsi origins. According to Kahina, Bosco Ntaganda was also on the ground himself.

"I saw him across the battlefield. We shot at him, but he got away", Kahina said".

Not 100% sure about all the details but I think the allegiance to S Makenga seems corroboting other information I heard.

You can find the full story here:

congo man said...

@ Jason Stern
I agree with most of your thoughts but There's also credible evidences ,eye witness ...who have seen dozens of Rwandan military tracks deploying soldiers at the DRC boader .I also agree with those who think that Paul Kagame and his backers in Washington and London etc ...used this supposed m23 split and BOSCO surrender in order to restore aid to that brutal dictatorship. How could the Makenga camp wich was outnumbered by the BOSCO camp win the supposed Kibumba battle without any reinforcement? Many eye witness have seen fresh Rwandan Soldiers being deployed to the DRC .I don't think Rwanda will respect the so called Addis Abeba accord or stop meddling in DRC's affairs or stop violating Congoles territorial integrity .only a strong military intervention will bring an end to Rwandan aggression .the Congoles peoples and military are not ready to accept another infiltration of the FARDC by Rwandan spies and war criminals under the command of Makenga. yes BOSCO's removal from the region is very important but it will not bring peace to the region .BOSCO and Makenga are all terrorists and war criminals and replacing one by the other makes no difference.James Kabarebe and Paul Kagame are the ones running the m23 .it will be a big mistake for western nations to get fooled by this BOSCO surrender and restore aid to this bloody ruthless dictatorship of Paul Kagame and James Kabarebe.until Rwanda pull all its troopes out of the DRC and stop supporting negative forces inside the DRC aid should not be restored to that dictatorship.

Zi Zi Searles said...

A victory against impunity is stretching it a bit. The puppets usefulness met it's end. That's it. Case closed.

Mel said...

I couldn’t agree more that calling Bosco’s capture a victory against impunity pretty far fetched.

To be super clear, we still have a government in Kinshasa that is a) illegitimate b) corrupt c) decadent d) suspicious of the rule of law e) incompetent. f) incapable of assisting its people on a broad range of issues (namely, security) g) willfully allows points a-f to occur so as to maintain power.

And ofcourse, we still have something of the order of 23 odd rebel groups/movements who continue to abuse the Congolese as they go about their day to day with little to no repercussions for their many and barbaric crimes.

This is a pyrrhic- not game changing- victory that primarily belongs to the powers that be- not the Congolese people.

I guess I would be happier if Bosco (and so many others) faced CONGOLESE JUSTICE but since that's a riddle, wrapped in an enigma, and thus essentially a joke we really shouldn't jump up and down and claim this a victory.


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virunga mountains said...

The British facilitated the safe passage for criminal Bosco ntaganda to the American Embassy according to my sources. They've also arranged a legal team for him.
This was done not because they're interested in justice-see how they keep singing rape victims and living out murdered victims in Congo, while at the same-time, they're funding the godfather of rapists and murderers, Killer Paul kagame.

The Chinese are giving them sleepless nights and the British are determined to keep them out of Alibaba caves in Eastern Congo. That's why you're seeing the likes of William Hague taking their pathetic crocodile tears to Congo.

I do agree with Congo man, yes, trucks did transport fresh troops to the border, and they suddenly disappeared into thin air.

My thought on the security situation is very clear. As long as Kagame and Museveni are still around, nothing will change, but new tactics.
However, this should not put-off Congolese and their friends, because something big is going to happen soon, that will shock everyone!!


muana congo said...

- Erratum: Of course I meant Walmart the iconic American retailer. I also meant the patriarch of WallStreet crooks Bernard Madoff , he the image of America in decline, that is systematically weakened by the amoral human-blood-suckers.Their “terrain de predilection” is weak states they wreck further .Look how President Putin is vilified by some int’l media because he cut out the same cancerous tumour of fraud and deceit by the Bank-of-New-York and the WallStreet-linked mafia of so-called Yeltsinian Oligarchs (Boris Berezovsky, Mikhail Khodorkovsky…) . Thank God Dan Gertler was stopped in his tracks in Congo.

About W. Hague in Congo… I agree with Virunga Mountains, pathetically sickening crocodile tears indeed. It is all about grandstanding and appearing to the world as the “saviors of Africans”. Managing the problem rather than solving it. An “Indiana Jones” TV moment about rape is more important than addressing the cause of rape (Kagame unjust war in the Kivus) and ending the
suffering of millions of innocents.

The West should not blame Chinese. Chinese don’t give Africans those relentless obnoxious lectures. They have tangible proof of their cooperation with Africa in countless revolutionary infrastructure projects throughout Africa. Africans are the first to attest. So, W. Hague promises $270m for the health sector in Congo, WOW ! I mean, really? Is this not just for int’l NGOs executives’ expensive SUVs, private jets, endless conferences and uncountable reports. My point is if ever just 10% of this money were to be disbursed, it will never reach their intended recipients and nothing concrete will be shown for it. By local standards, $270m is huge. It can build 1350 ($200m each) rural clinics (dispensaires) throughout DRC.

By the way, what happened to H. Clinton’s promised $millions to “fight rape in the Kivus”? Look, mark my word: 20 years from now there will be absolutely nothing to show for W. Hague’s millions! Just vanity!


congo man said...

@ virunga mountain ,Rich,muanacongo,and Jean-Baptiste...
Thank-you brothers.I can't agree with you more.days are numbered for the butcher of the great lakes(Paul Kagame)and his junta. This is now I think a 3rd or forth visite by this William Hague guy to the region in order to verify the damage caused by his m23,CNDP ,FPR ...terrorists.It's like Eric von Manstein visiting a consentration camp,pearl harbour or a Chinese region under the Japanese emperial army's occupation and pledge 20 thousand dollars to some victims of his bloody allies . This guy shall keep his bloody $ and get the hel back to London where he belongs.the Congoles people have had enough of this crap .

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