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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The #Obama connection to #Congo warlord Bosco #Ntaganda

Yesterday Bosco Ntaganda, the M23 general wanted for countless atrocities by the International Criminal Court, turned himself in at the US Embassy in Kigali, Rwanda.

There is no question that Ntaganda is a bad actor in a region that has seen far too many of them. Human Rights Watch has a complete file on him in which they say:
Human Rights Watch has documented atrocities by troops under General Bosco Ntaganda’s command for over 10 years. Ntaganda is wanted by the International Criminal Court since 2006 for allegedly committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in northeastern Congo in 2002 and 2003, including recruiting and using child soldiers, murder, rape and sexual slavery, and persecution.
Apparently Ntaganda hasn't been too badly put upon by his fugitive status in the past seven years. Two years ago Mac McClelland reported on his search for Ntaganda in Goma and said:
He dines at the finest restaurants. He's a leading military official. He owns a bar, a dairy farm, and a pretty mansion. And the International Criminal Court has a warrant for his arrest. So why isn't Bosco Ntaganda in jail?
At least part of the answer to McClelland's question can be gathered from a US State Department cable dated 11 Jan 2010 [10KIGALI24] and made available by Wikileaks. It sounds like the fix is in and Ntaganda has friends in high places:
(C) SUMMARY: Joseph Nzabamwita, head of the National Security Service (NSS)'s Department of External Intelligence and Security, on December 14, pressed visiting EU Great Lakes Special Envoy Roeland van de Geer and Deputy to the U.S. Special Advisor for the Great Lakes James Yellin for Western support to combat FDLR leadership, warned that an arrest of CNDP leader Bosco Ntaganda would be destabilizing,..
The US has also been protecting Bosco Ntaganda on the world stage. A year ago, HRW accused the US of "covering up information about rebels led by a man wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court." The BBC reported:
The global watchdog [HRW] says Washington is blocking publication of a UN inquiry into rebels led by Bosco Ntaganda in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The UN has reportedly uncovered detailed information that neighbouring Rwanda, a key US ally, is backing the rebels in the east of the country.
It is no secret that Rwanda is a key US ally, according to a Rwandan news agency [RNA] report in the Stratfor GI file [707643] released in a journalistic partnership with Wikileaks:
The US is a major source of support for Rwanda's military.
Nor is it any real secret that the Congolese rebel group that has been terrorizing the people of the region is a creation of the Rwandan military. According to Jason Stearns, an American writer who worked for ten years in the Congo:
The CNDP was created by telephone calls from Rwandan security services to Nkunda and other Tutsi officers who were in the RCD rebel outfit...The CNDP was therefore a "top-down creation."
The US has had a hand in training them. According to another US State Department cable [09KINSHASA1149] there was a leadership workshop organized by the Wilson Center in Goma involving Ntaganda's people in November 2009. Apparently things could have gone better:
Kassa [from the Wilson Center] readily admitted that the leadership training discussion in Goma did not take into account the internal strife within the CNDP in general and Bosco Ntaganda's own agenda in particular. He noted that Bosco had a tendency to act like this when he is under stress.
CNDP stands for National Congress for the Defense of the People, and the top leaders, who have now had a falling out, were Bosco Ntaganda and Laurent Nkunda. According to an RNA report [707643], their eventual fate was considered 18 months ago at a meeting between three Rwandan generals and a "US embassy official at an undisclosed location where they discussed various regional security issues":
the generals stated Bosco "could end up in front" of the International Criminal Court and Nkunda "will likely be extradited in the future" to the DRC.
Bosco Ntaganda, himself, was described by Alison Des Forges, a senior adviser for Africa at HRW, as
"somebody who has made his career out of being a useful military person regardless of the cause."..."he is someone who can transfer his loyalties and adapt his position depending on his interests."
In other words, he is a mercenary.

Just who has been paying him for the chaos he has been creating in the Congo isn't clear but what is clear is that big money and big international players have an intense game going on there for the purpose of looting the country's vast mineral wealth. As this GI file [51770] reported:
The value of the DRC's ore exports in 2010 was estimated at $1.6 billion, out of a gross domestic product of $13.1 billion - a number that does not include the value of illegal exports smuggled across the DRC's porous borders. estimates of the DRC's untapped mineral wealth have been reported in the trillions of dollars. Judged by the value of its resources, the DRC is a very wealthy country, yet its vast size, poor infrastructure and numerous competing local interests make the DRC exceedingly difficult to govern.
Once you scratch beneath the surface of regional and tribal issues, you will find the exploitative interests of world capitalism are very much behind the humanitarian tragedy that is the Congo today, and the US, under Obama, is a leading player with its funding of the Rwanda military and providing cover for the likes of Bosco Ntaganda.

For that reason, I found it particularly hypocritical when President Obama sought to juxtapose the need for humanitarian intervention in Syria and the Congo, saying "And how do I weigh tens of thousands who've been killed in Syria versus the tens of thousands who are currently being killed in the Congo?"

In both cases, Syria and the Congo, the United States, under his leadership, is more problem than solution.

By most accounts, Bosco Ntaganda has been living well and remains a player in Rwanda/Congo politics, so when the news broke that he had surrendered, the Washington Post put the question that most informed observers were pondering in its headline:
Why did infamous war criminal Bosco Ntaganda just surrender at a U.S. embassy?
That is actually two questions in one. First there is the question: Why did he turn himself in now?

Events on the ground may best answer that question. Recently, a split in the Congolese rebel group M23 lead to infighting in which Ntaganda's men came up short with many being killed, many fleeing into Rwanda and others surrendering to UN peacekeekers, according to Reuters on Saturday.

UPDATE: I now have this very informative report from the Communist Party of Rwanda that says the whole split in M23 is a ruse.

The second question is why did he turn himself into the US Embassy? It's not the obvious choice, particularly since the United States has declined to become a member of the ICC. This question now begs for an answer. Does Bosco Ntaganda have a direct connection to the United States?

Beyond US covert support for certain destabilizing elements in the Congo, there is a more direct connection between Barack Obama and Bosco Ntaganda. His name is Kase Lawai.

Kase Lawai is a US oil tycoon who was born in Nigeria. He was the chairman and chief executive of the Houston-based oil firm Camac according to the Guardian. He has also been described as "a prolific Democratic bundler and Clinton family confidante." In Nigeria, he was also a member of the Presidential Advisory Council (PAC) for Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan in 2010, according to this Stratford Global Intelligence file [5068127].

In 2010 President Obama put Lawai on the White House’s Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations, and all was well until his dealings with Ntaganda became public. The Guardian reported:
Obama-appointed US trade adviser linked to illegal deal in Congolese gold
UN report says Kase Lawal knew he was dealing with the wanted warlord Bosco Ntaganda
Pete Jones
Sunday 5 February 2012 11.01 EST
A US trade adviser appointed by Barack Obama orchestrated a deal to buy gold worth millions of dollars from a wanted Congolese warlord, according to a UN report.

Kase Lawal, a Nigerian-born US oil tycoon, transferred millions of dollars to the notorious rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda between December 2010 and February 2011 as part of the deal, the report by the UN's Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) states.

If true, this would be a contravention of UN resolutions banning individuals or organisations from financing illegal armed groups in the war torn eastern DRC.

The UN report says Lawal, the chairman and chief executive of the Houston-based oil firm Camac, was aware he was paying Ntaganda.

Obama put Lawal on the US advisory committee for trade and policy negotiations in September 2010, just months before the deal with Ntaganda. More...
It has also been reported that Lawal threw Obama's name around a lot while he was making this deal. The deal unraveled when Congolese authorities confiscated a Gulfstream V jet they were using. David Disiere, owner of Southlake Aviation, who leased Lawai the plane, claimed to know nothing of the scheme, “You’ve got a man on this international economic advisory council appointed by President Obama. I just expected more,” he said. When Disiere sued him over the loss of the plane, Lawai pleaded the fifth amendment over a hundred time in civil depositions.

After this story broke, Kase Lawal was quietly dropped from the presidential committee.

Bosco Ntaganda has surprised everyone by turning himself in at the US embassy and demanding he be sent to the Hague. What's his game? What does he know and what will he say if he is really called upon to testify in open court?

These are still the early days in this whole interesting affair and so far, there are a lot more questions than answers.

Late Monday, State Department spokeswoman Victor Nuland confirmed the report and said "He specifically asked to be transferred to the ICC in The Hague. We're currently consulting with a number of governments, including the Rwandan government, in order to facilitate his request."

As of Tuesday morning, AP is reporting that Ntaganda remains at the US embassy:
Six years of freedom unexpectedly came to an end at 7:30 a.m. on Monday morning, when the 39-year-old warlord nicknamed "The Terminator" showed up at the gates of the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda's capital, Kigali. He came to the embassy by car after making his way over the 150 kilometers (90 miles) of road separating Kigali from his base in eastern Congo. Ntaganda presented himself to officials at the embassy and asked to be handed over to the International Criminal Court, which issued its first arrest warrant for him in 2006. A U.S. official, who was not authorized to speak publicly and insisted on anonymity, said Ntaganda remained ensconced at the embassy on Tuesday.
Amnesty International is demanding:
DRC: Bosco Ntaganda must be surrendered to the ICC

19 March 2013
The United States and Rwandan governments must move quickly to ensure the safe surrender of Bosco Ntaganda, to the International Criminal Court (ICC), Amnesty International said today. More...

The UN has also now issued a statement looking forward to the transfer of Ntaganda to the ICC:
Kinshasa - The United Nations mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday said transferring wanted Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda, who has surrendered in Kigali, to the international war crimes court will be a solid move towards peace.

“The surrender of Bosco Ntaganda and his imminent transfer to the International Criminal Court will allow the peace process in DR Congo to move forward,” Roger Meece, head of the UN mission, known as MONUSCO, said in a statement.

“This is also a strong message to other people that violate human rights that they will not escape justice,” added Meece, who is a special representative of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

UPDATE 20 March 2013: Ntaganda is still at the US embassy for a third day where US officials say he will remain until he is transferred to the ICC. Bloomberg News is reporting that ICC officials are on their way to Kigali for Ntaganga according to U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson.

Some troubling indications have emerged that Rwanda may try to block the transfer of NTaganda to the Hague. According to Melanie Gouby and Mike Corder of AP:
The United States government appears to be worried that Rwanda won’t allow a warlord from Congo now camped out in the U.S. Embassy safe passage to the airport to be flown to the International Criminal Court for prosecution.

The U.S. hopes Rwanda will help facilitate the transfer of Congolese rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda from the U.S. Embassy in Kigali to the airport for a flight to the ICC in the Netherlands, the top U.S. State Department official on Africa, Johnnie Carson, said Wednesday.

“We hope that the Rwandan government will do its part,” Carson said in a telephone press conference from Washington. “It is a small but significant part to ensure that Bosco Ntaganda is able to move freely from the American embassy compound to the airport where he will board a plane and go to The Hague.”

Carson said it’s important that Ntaganda’s movement from the embassy to the airport “in no way be inhibited.”

Carson also indicated that Rwanda hasn’t yet assured cooperation with ICC officials en route to Rwanda. He noted that Rwanda, like the United States, is not a signatory to the Rome Statue that created the ICC and is not bound by international obligations to hand Ntaganda to the ICC.

UPDATE - This just in from BBC News Africa:
DR Congo's Bosco Ntaganda in ICC custody

22 March 2013 Last updated at 13:54 ET
Congolese war crimes suspect Bosco Ntaganda has left Rwanda and is on the way to The Hague in the custody of the International Criminal Court.

Gen Ntaganda, a key figure in the conflict in eastern DR Congo, surrendered to the US embassy in Kigali on Monday.

The ICC has charged him with 10 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, which Gen Ntaganda denies.

His first appearance before judges is scheduled for next Tuesday. More...

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