The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) says General Bosco Ntaganda, wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) has fled the country and crossed into neighboring Rwanda.
“He crossed (the border) on Saturday… he is in Rwanda today,” DR Congo government spokesman Lambert Mende told AFP on Sunday.
However, Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo denied the allegation that the rebel leader was in Rwanda.
On Saturday, sources in the United Nations and the March 23 movement (M23) rebel group said that hundreds of Ntaganda men fled into Rwanda or surrendered to UN peacekeepers after being defeated by the M23 rebels.
Ntaganda, known by the nom de guerre “Terminator” due to his brutal methods, has been wanted by the ICC since 2006 on charges of committing the war crimes of enlisting and conscripting children under the age of fifteen and using them to participate actively in hostilities.
Several armed groups, including the M23 rebels, are active in the east of the DRC and fighting for control of the country’s vast mineral resources, such as gold, the main tin ore cassiterite, and coltan (columbite-tantalite), which is used to make many electronic devices, including cell phones.
The M23 rebels seized Goma on November 20, 2012 after UN peacekeepers gave up the battle for the frontier city of one million people. M23 fighters withdrew from the city on December 1, 2012 under a ceasefire accord.
The M23 rebels defected from the Congolese army in April 2012 in protest over alleged mistreatment in the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC). They had previously been integrated into the Congolese army under a peace deal signed in 2009.
Since early May 2012, nearly 3 million people have fled their homes in the eastern Congo. About 2.5 million have resettled in Congo, but more than 460,000 have crossed into neighboring Rwanda and Uganda.
Congo has faced numerous problems over the past few decades, such as grinding poverty, crumbling infrastructure, and a war in the east of the country that has dragged on since 1998 and left over 5.5 million people dead.