Africa Insiders: DR Congo’s Terminator won’t be back
The essentials: Congolese warlord Bosco “The Terminator” Ntaganda has been sentenced to 30 years in prison by the International Criminal Court for atrocities committed in 2002 and 2003.
The context: In July, Ntaganda, 46, was found guilty of 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity including murder, rape and sexual slavery during conflicts in DR Congo’s northeast Ituri region. He is the first person to be convicted of sexual slavery at the international court and the first to receive a 30-year-sentence, the maximum the court can pass.
Ntaganda fought alongside Paul Kagame to dislodge the genocidal regime in Rwanda in 1994. After that, he was the commander of operations for the Forces Patriotiques pour la Liberation du Congo (FPLC) one of several rebel factions battling for control in the DRC. He also served as a general in the Congolese Army. As rebel commander, he conscripted child soldiers and used them as bodyguards. Female fighters, some as young as nine, were forced into sexual slavery under his watch. Villagers say he commandeered massacres: In Kiwanja, he led an attack where 150 people were killed in a day.
The ICC issued an arrest warrant for Ntaganda in 2006, but he continued to live publicly. He formed the M23 militia group and continued attacks in North Kivu province well into the early-2010s, even as he appeared on the US wanted list for attacking peacekeepers. In 2013, after loosing a violent conflict with an opposing faction within M23, he turned himself in at the US embassy in Rwanda and requested to be transferred to the ICC. Ngatanda pleaded not guilty to all the crimes, but the judges were not convinced and finally sentenced him last week.
The good: The judgement is a powerful message to war criminals across the continent: no one is untouchable. That message is needed as violence continues in parts of central Africa and elsewhere. It is worth acknowledging that the ICC also successfully sentenced Thomas Lubanga, the chief commander of the FPLC to a 14-year-sentence. He was the first person to be sentenced by the court.
The bad: Congolese people continue to ask why it took so long to stop Ntaganda and why it is taking so long to bring peace to the DRC where fighting continues. Enablers of war criminals like Ntaganda, who has at times benefited from the support of both the governments of the DRC and Rwanda, continue to hold high posts in the region. As Vava Tampa writes in The Guardian: “Ntaganda did indeed commit the killings – but to us Congolese, he did so in large part because the world seems to care so little about Congolese lives.”
The future: Ntaganda is already appealing his sentence, but a lighter sentence is not likely based on the evidence reviewed in court. Meanwhile, human rights activists are pushing for compensation for Ntaganda’s victims.
- Congolese Warlord Sentenced to 30 Years for War Crimes (The New York Times)
- A brutal warlord has been convicted – so why doesn’t it feel like a triumph? (The Guardian)
- ‘Terminator’ warlord jailed for life for Congo war crimes (The Independent)
- Court sentences Congo warlord to 30 years for atrocities (AP)
- Congolese rebel leader known as ‘the Terminator’ given 30 years in jail for war crimes (CNN)
- War crimes judges jail Congolese warlord Ntaganda for 30 years (Reuters)
- Watch: DRC’s Ntaganda guilty of crimes against humanity, war crimes (Al Jazeera)
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