Profile of the Congolese warlord who is set to face numerous charges in the International Criminal Court.
Name: General Bosco Ntaganda
Nickname: The Terminator
Who is he?
A renegade soldier who has fought for at least six different different armies- including those of both DR Congo and Rwanda – over more than two decades.
Ntaganda was the alleged leader of the M23 rebel group, who have been causing destruction in eastern DR Congo. His militia groups are alleged to have murdered and raped countless victims, with recent testimonies suggesting that Ntaganda himself was a particularly brutal and bloodthirsty ringleader. Hundreds of thousands of people are thought to have been displaced by the trail of violence Ntaganda and his henchmen left behind them.
In 2008, Ntaganda’s militias are reported to have massacred 150 people in the village of Kiwanja.
He is also alleged to be heavily involved in mineral-struggling, a practice which has reportedly made him an extremely wealthy man.
The International Criminal Court’s incoming chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has said that Ntaganda is “as dangerous as Joseph Kony,” adding that it was his “destiny” to face charges in front of the ICC; a destiny he now looks set to fulfil.
How was he caught?
He wasn’t. In an unexpected turn of events, Ntaganda handed himself in to the US Embassy in Rwanda after fleeing from warring factions of his own M23 rebel group. From there he was taken into custody by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Ntaganda’s surrender was the first time that a wanted war crimes suspect had voluntarily surrendered to the ICC. Bensouda says: “This moment goes to show that no matter how long it takes, an arrest warrant by the ICC means all roads lead to the Hague.”
How did he get the title of General?
In 2009 DRC brought him in to the army and gave him the title of General. It didn’t last long, however, with Ntaganda defecting in 2012 to form the M23 rebel group.
Why did he surrender?
Opinions differ. Some say Ntaganda had to run for his life after losing control of the M23.. Rwanda, which had been accused of having “command and control” of M23 in UN reports appears to have washed its hands of him, they say. Another theory has it that Rwanda had previously arrested Mr Ntaganda before deciding not to hold him. One source said he had attempted to go to Masisi through Virunga National Park (in DR Congo) but was stopped in his tracks by a militia and forced to turn back. He then got caught up in fighting with his rival, Sultani Makenga’s M23 faction. Having run out of ammunition, Ntaganda eventually crossed the Rwandan border on the 15th or 16th at night, the sources said.
What charges does he face?
Seven counts of war crimes and three counts of crimes against humanity. His charges include “individual criminal responsibility for crimes against humanity of murder, rape/sexual slavery” as well as ethnic persecution. He is also charged with the war crimes of “murder, intentional attacks against civilians, pillaging and rape/sexual slavery” and of conscripting children under the age of 15 and using them as child soldiers.
What happens next?
The ICC’s judges will now decide whether there is enough evidence to go ahead with a trial. If so, Ntaganda will be tried 23rd September.
A statement from the ICC thanked the US, Rwanda and DR Congo for helping secure the transfer of Ntaganda to The Hague. But it also urged them to “renew and refocus their efforts” to secure the arrests of other suspects who remain at large, including the top commanders of the LRA.
Who will gain?
The first person likely to benefit from Ntaganda being out of the game is Sultani Makenga, the leader of the other M23 faction who can now operate free of a rival who was sought by the international community, and who damaged the image of the whole group. A UN-backed framework deal agreed in late February means that the way is now open for negotiations between the M23 and the Kinshasa regime.
Rwanda, too, has rid itself of a protege who had become too burdensome without having had to arrest him.
For the DRCongolese government Ntaganda’s trial will serve as a deterrent and an example.
Human rights groups have celebrated Ntaganda’s surrender as a victory for international law and the victims of atrocities. New York-based pressure group Human Rights Watch, HRW, said it will help end the culture of impunity in DR Congo.