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Ntaganda and ICC: The Conviction of a Congolese War Lord

August 05th, 2019
topics:Humans
by:Ndubuaku Kanayo
located in:Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Rwanda
tags:Congo, Conviction, ICC, law, Ntaganda, Rwanda, slavery, Uganda, violence

"The law is made for man, not man for the law", the precise words of William Godwin a journalist and political philosopher seem to be playing out real quick at the International Criminal Court, as judges recently Congolese rebel-warlord Bosco "Terminator" Ntaganda for war crimes, cordination of horrendous massacres of civilians, rape and sexual slavery.

The ferocious militant will go down as one of the most dreaded, powerful and brutal warlords in DRC, after Rwanda, with the support of Uganda-invaded DRC in 1998.

The 46-year-old makes it into the history books as one of the first persons to be convicted of sexual slavery by the ICC. He is only the fourth person convicted by the ICC since its creation in 2002.

Ntaganda, born in the Kinigi area of Rwanda, started off as a combatant in neighbouring Ugand. At the age of 17, he joined the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) and fought alongside Paul Kagame to overthrow Rwanda’s genocidal regime in 1994. He was a founding member of the M23 rebel group, that was eventually overpowered by the Congolese government forces in 2003.

Exploitation, theft and brutal violence

According to a 2014 report by Human Rights Watch, the former rebel leader is believed to have amassed a considerable amount of wealth over the years, “notably through seizing control of fertile land and cattle, looting and trafficking minerals”.

Ntaganda was pivotal in planning and running operations for the Union of Congolese Patriots (UCP) rebels and its military wing, the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC).

He was also connected to brutal violence, sexual slavery of under-age girls and extensive exploitation and theft of minerals, in the rich Ituri region between 2002 and 2003.

According to the archbishop of Bukavu, Monsignor François-Xavier Rusengo, who witnessed the violence in connection with mining in his native South Kivu, eastern Congo, the armed groups employed brutal force and violence in gaining mineral wealth.

“There is a formula the armed groups use for gaining mineral wealth; that is to attack civilians”, he disclosed.

The Monsignor in his letter to France's ambassador to Congo in 2007 narrated how rebels massacred villagers in his province.

As one of the key leaders of the rebel group, Ntaganda allegedly issued out direct orders to target and kill civilians, including a Catholic Priest.

In one attack coordinated by Ntaganda, during the Ituri conflict, the terminator was alleged to have shot Abbe Bwanalongba a catholic priest from Ntigi during the Ituri crises that simultaneously saw both Hema and Lendu armed groups kill civilians of the different ethnicity.

Under-age soldiers and rape victims were not spared .

“We were tortured to toughen us up, all in the preparation for when we were needed at the battlefield”, one of the under-age soldiers revealed to Human Rights Watch.

Another woman, divulged on the condition of anonymity how she was forcefully raped by “terminator” Ntaganda.

"He brutalised me by raping me, there was no way I could have refused, I risked getting killed because he is a killer", she recounted.

"There were a lot of atrocities especially when they occupied Bunia”, a former student in Ituri disclosed in an interview with Human rights Watch.

He went further, as he reminisced the various atrocities engineered by Ntaganda in the Ituri province around 2002-2003.

“There were a lot of dead bodies all around the residence of the ex-governor, more than hundred corpses and all around the city there were kidnappings, there was lots of score settling in such a way that it was really a very bitter time for the Ituri population to live through”, he concluded.

ICC verdict and its significance

The recent conviction of Ntaganda by the International Criminal Court has been welcomed by countries all around the world as it sends out a message that human rights violations, including sexual crimes, will not go unpunished.

The court, had initially issued an arrest warrant against Ntaganda in 2003.

Using his powerful connections, wealth and influence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, he escaped justice for seven years. He surrendered to the Hague based court in 2013.

In the exact words of Joan Nyanyuki, Amnesty International's Director for East Africa: “The recent conviction of the warlord means the 2,123 victims in the case can at last begin the process of reparations for all the harm inflicted upon them by Ntaganda”.

The latest verdict of the International Criminal Court also sends a strong message to despotic rulers who pepertuate crimes and atrocities against the people not minding the rule of law and the anarchical consequences that come with these unlawful actions.

It also sounds a note of reminder to those believed to be untouchable in society that the law is made for man, not man for the law.

Article written by:
Ndubuaku Kanayo
Ndubuaku Kanayo
Author
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Embed from Getty Images
The ferocious militant will go down as one of the most dreaded, powerful and brutal warlords in DRC.
Embed from Getty Images
Ntaganda was pivotal in planning and running operations for the Union of Congolese Patriots (UCP) rebels and its military wing, the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC).
Embed from Getty Images
He was also connected to brutal violence, sexual slavery of underage girls and extensive exploitation and theft of minerals, in the rich Ituri region between 2002 and 2003.

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