NAIROBI — Bosco Ntaganda, a Congolese rebel general accused of massacring civilians and building an army of child soldiers — considered one of Africa’s most wanted men — surprisingly turned himself in to the US Embassy in Rwanda on Monday, saying he wanted to be sent to the International Criminal Court.
Ntaganda, a boyish-looking rebel commander who was nicknamed the Terminator, has been wanted by the International Criminal Court on war crimes charges for more than six years, sometimes hiding out in the thickly forested hills of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo or other times appearing in public, such as when he would cavalierly play tennis at a fancy hotel in one of Congo’s bigger towns.
Victoria Nuland, the State Department spokeswoman, said Ntaganda walked into the embassy in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, on Monday morning and ‘‘specifically asked to be transferred to the ICC.’’
Nuland said she could not answer why, after years of being on the run, he chose to turn himself in to US diplomats but said ‘‘we are working to facilitate his request.’’
In the past few weeks, Ntaganda has been attacked by fighters in his own rebel group, the so-called M23, which is widely believed to be covertly supported by Rwanda. The M23 recently split, and scores of M23 fighters fled to Rwanda, where they were immediately disarmed.
But for Ntaganda, the options were dwindling.
‘‘The Rwandans would have killed him,’’ said Barnabe Kikaya bin Karubi, Congo’s ambassador to Britain. ‘‘He knew too much.’’
Some analysts have posed another theory: that Rwanda secretly arranged for Ntaganda to surrender. Otherwise, they said, it would have been difficult for someone as notorious as him to travel undetected through Rwanda.