Congo army closes in on wanted war criminal
GOMA (DR CONGO) THE army in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Friday said it had seized control of an area where a former rebel leader and indicted war criminal Jean Bosco Ntaganda had been holed up.
The Congolese armed forces (FARDC) began their move on Thursday towards Mushaki, in the Masisi territory of Kivu-Nord province, where they have been fighting since Sunday a group of mutineers seen as loyal to Ntaganda.
The renegade soldiers are former rebels of the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), who had subsequently integrated into the army.
Two army sources, when asked if they were in control of Mushaki, replied “affirmative,” without giving details.
Ntaganda, who was holed up in a farm in the area, was previously a top CNDP commander before the group signed a peace deal in 2009.
About 80 soldiers from the Congolese army abandoned their posts on Thursday, a military source said. Among the men, who previously belonged to the CNDP, was Ntaganda’s second-in-command, Colonel Sultani Makenga, the source said.
“Colonel Makenga and Lieutenant Colonel Masozera defected in the night with their men,” in Goma, the Kivu-Nord capital on the Rwanda border, the source said.
A top army officer said Makenga’s defection was a serious blow.
In an interview on Tuesday, Ntaganda, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes including recruiting child soldiers, said he was on the “farm near Mushaki” with the support of the military hierarchy and the knowledge of President Joseph Kabila.
Ntaganda added that he was not concerned when the fighting began at Mushaki on Sunday because he was a military man and he had a personal guard, without giving details of how many soldiers were in it.
On Friday, military officials said Ntaganda was leaving the farm, though it was not clear where he was headed.
But a former rebel said he was “on his way to join Makenga,” his former deputy.
Reports said Ntaganda was trying to get to the frontier region of Rwanda, passing through the famed Virunga National Park.