Meet Congo’s ‘Terminator’
Bosco Ntaganda has a beautiful smile, according to those who have met him – but beneath the smile lies a ruthless operator who well deserves his nicknames “Terminator Tango” or “The Terminator”.
Gen Ntaganda is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for allegedly recruiting child soldiers during the Democratic Republic of Congo’s bloody five-year war.
The ICC says it will soon add rape and murder charges – after his co-accused and former boss, warlord Thomas Lubanga, was found guilty in March 2012 of recruiting child soldiers.
A witness testified that as a child, he fought alongside “The Terminator” and said he was a man who “kills people easily”.
Impunity and luxury
Gen Ntaganda is “just as dangerous as [Ugandan rebel leader] Joseph Kony”, says Fatou Bensouda who becomes the ICC chief prosecutor in June.
“Not arresting Bosco, allowing him to walk freely, like he’s not committed any crimes, is unacceptable,” Ms Bensouda says.
But that is exactly what has happened, with President Joseph Kabila refusing to arrest him – for the sake of Congo’s peace, he has said.
And so, for years, the ex-rebel-turned-army general has been free in the eastern town of Goma, enjoying a life of impunity and luxury, which has included fine wine and dining and games of tennis.
The local population has not been so lucky.
They blame Mr Ntaganda and his soldiers for a series of rapes, looting and murders – in North and South Kivu provinces, and in the Ituri district of north-eastern DR Congo.
Bosco Ntaganda was born in 1973 in Kiningi, a small town on the foothills of Rwanda’s Virunga mountain range, famous for its gorillas.
As a teenager, Mr Ntaganda fled to Ngungu, in eastern DR Congo, following attacks on fellow ethnic Tutsis in Rwanda.
He attended secondary school there – but did not graduate.
In 1990, at the age of 17, he joined the Rwandan Patriotic Front rebels in southern Uganda.
He fought, under the command of RPF leader – now Rwandan President – Paul Kagame, to end the genocide.
After Rwandan unrest spilled over into DR Congo, he started to flip between fighting rebellions and serving in national armies – both Rwandan and Congolese.
Bosco Ntaganda Mr Ntaganda was filmed in Kiwanji on the day of the 2008 massacre
In 2002, he joined the rebel Union of Congolese Patriots in the Ituri district – and spent the next three years as Thomas Lubanga’s chief of military operations.
Mr Ntaganda then joined yet another rebel group – the CNDP – under the leadership of Laurent Nkunda, a key power-broker in the east of the country who, like Gen Ntaganda, had started his military career in the Rwandan rebel force that ended the genocide.
With the backing of Rwanda, he went on to overthrew Gen Nkunda and take over the leadership of the CNDP militia.
Despite being wanted by the ICC for alleged war crimes, by 2009 Mr Ntaganda was soldiering on the side of President Kabila – and was promoted to general.
He was based in Goma, where he was in charge of up to 50,000 soldiers, many of them former rebels who remained personally loyal to him.
According to a UN investigation, Mr Ntaganda has built a lucrative business empire for himself in North and South Kivu – reportedly collecting taxes from mines controlled by the soldiers under his command, charcoal markets and illegal checkpoints.
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He always denies and comes up with excuse after excuse to justify what he has done”
Anneke van Woudenberg Human Rights Watch
At one stage, Mr Ntaganda was making about $15,000 (£10,000) a week at one border crossing, a 2011 report by the UN Group of Experts found.
He also is thought to own a flour factory, a hotel, a bar and a cattle ranch outside Goma.
Human Rights Watch researcher Anneke van Woudenberg has met “The Terminator” several times.
He is not an articulate or persuasive speaker, Ms van Woudenberg says.
But, standing at just over 6ft (1.8m) tall, he has a certain presence and charisma – and likes to wear leather cowboy-style hats.
But it is his ruthlessness that really stood out for her: “He is someone who will never face up to his crimes. He always denies and comes up with excuse after excuse to justify what he has done.”
The list of his alleged crimes is huge – and Congolese people say “The Terminator” is regarded as a man who leads from the front and personally takes part in military operations.
In November 2008 international journalists filmed him commanding and ordering his troops in the village of Kiwanja, 90km (55 miles) north of Goma, where 150 people were massacred in a single day.
He also commanded troops accused of having killed, because of their ethnicity, at least 800 civilians in the town of Mongbwalu, in Ituri district in 2002, after his troops took control of the rich gold mines in the area.
In early April 2012, he appears to have defected from the Congolese army – reportedly leaving Goma, taking with him up to 600 heavily armed soldiers.
He is thought to be hiding out in the hills above the town.
On 11 April, Mr Kabila finally called for his arrest – but he said he will not be handing over Gen Ntaganda to the ICC.BBC
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