Letter to President Kabila: Arrest Bosco Ntaganda

Bosco Ntaganda
Bosco Ntaganda

Since April 2008, Ntaganda has been wanted by the ICC at The Hague for the war crime of enlisting child soldiers and using them in hostilities. Ntaganda is a co-accused in the trial of Thomas Lubanga, another Congo militia leader, which began on January 26.

“Bosco Ntaganga committed crimes in Ituri; he is today in the Kivus. He must be arrested. Like all the other indicted criminals in Uganda and in the Sudan, he must be stopped if we want to break the system of violence. For such criminals, there must be no escape. Then peace will have a chance. Then victims will have hope”,

said Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo as the court unsealed its arrest warrant.

Moreno Ocampo called upon all concerned states, authorities and actors “to contribute to his arrest and surrender him to the court.” The warrant of arrest against Ntaganda is the fourth issued by the Court in the situation of the DRC. Three persons are currently into custody: Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ndgudjolo Chui.

H.E. President Joseph Kabila Kabange
Gombe, Kinshasa
Democratic Republic of Congo

New York

Your Excellency,

Human Rights Watch writes to express its deep concern that your government is considering appointing Bosco Ntaganda to a senior position in the military operations in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), rather than arresting him. Ntaganda, formerly military chief of staff for the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), is currently playing a key role in the integration process of CNDP troops into the FARDC. He was granted the rank of general in the Congolese armed forces in January 2005, though he did not take up the position at the time.

You certainly know that Ntaganda is being sought by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the war crime of enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 as soldiers and of using them in hostilities between 2002 and 2003 in the Ituri district of eastern Congo.

As a party to the Rome Statute that established the ICC, Congo has an obligation to assist the court in arresting persons for whom arrest warrants have been issued. In May 2007, Congo recognized that responsibility by asking the United Nations Mission in Congo (MONUC) for assistance in arresting Ntaganda, a request that took great courage and which we applauded at the time.

Despite having an international obligation to arrest Ntaganda, your government has to date made no attempt to do so. On January 16, Ntaganda was in Goma for a joint press conference alongside the Congolese Minister of the Interior and Security, Célestin Mbuyu Kabangu, the Inspector General of the Police, General John Numbi, Rwanda’s Chief of Defence Staff, General James Kabarebe, and other senior Congolese military officers. On January 29, the Minister of Defense, Charles Mwando Simba, and other senior officials were at a ceremony in Rumangabo alongside Ntaganda.

Efforts by Congolese authorities to legitimize Ntaganda as a “partner for peace” reinforces the perception that those who commit heinous crimes against civilians in Congo will be rewarded rather punished. Rather than promote respect for the rule of law, such practices feed the vicious culture of impunity that has ravaged Congo to date.

In your press conference on January 31 in Kinshasa, you said that there was a difficult choice between justice and peace, stability and security in eastern Congo, and that your choice was to prioritize peace. We too want to see peace in eastern Congo and an end to the horrific human rights abuses that the people there have suffered for too long. But sustainable peace rarely comes without justice. Peace and justice should be seen as complementary, not contradictory. Fostering respect for the rule of law is the only solution for ensuring protection for Congolese citizens who suffer the brunt of the human rights violations.

The frequency with which Ntaganda has been accused of terrible abuses against Congolese civilians underlines the importance of his arrest. In addition to the war crimes that form the basis for the ICC arrest warrant against him, charges against Ntaganda include the following:

* On November 4 and 5, 2008, CNDP troops under Ntaganda’s command killed an estimated 150 people in the town of Kiwanja, one of the worst massacres in North Kivu in the past two years.
* As chief of military operations of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), Ntaganda was in command of combatants who arrested, tortured or killed hundreds of civilians of Lendu and Ngiti ethnicity between August 2002 and March 2003.
* In November 2002 Ntaganda led troops who slaughtered at least 800 civilians on ethnic grounds at Mongbwalu, including the first priest killed in the Ituri conflict, Abbe Boniface Bwanalonga.
* In November 2005 Ntaganda was placed on a UN sanctions list for having violated the arms embargo. He remains on the list.
* According to UN peacekeepers, troops under Ntaganda’s command were responsible for killing a Kenyan UN peacekeeper in January 2004 and for kidnapping a Moroccan peacekeeper later that year.

That forces under Ntaganda’s command continue to commit serious crimes, as demonstrated by the recent massacre in Kiwanja, underscores why it is urgent and essential that Congolese authorities arrest Ntaganda.

Mr. President, you have been a strong advocate for ending the culture of impunity in Congo. Your government has been at the forefront of cooperation with the ICC with the transfer of three Congolese individuals to The Hague to stand trial for charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. You have repeated your commitment to establishing the rule of law in numerous speeches such as those to the Congolese parliament and to the United Nations General Assembly. For these commitments to be realized, we urge you to instruct your judicial authorities to arrest Ntaganda and to transfer him to the jurisdiction of the ICC.

We also believe that Laurent Nkunda should be held responsible for crimes troops under his command committed in Kisangani in May 2002, in Bukavu in June 2004 and in North Kivu between 2006 and 2008. We note that your government is calling for his extradition to Congo to stand trial. We urge you to establish a special judicial mechanism within the Congolese justice system to investigate and hold to account individuals, such as Nkunda, who committed serious violations of international humanitarian law. Such a mechanism should meet international fair trial standards and hold to account not just Nkunda but also individuals from other armed groups and the Congolese army who have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Your government has been strong on denying amnesty for serious crimes. Lasting peace in eastern Congo requires justice for those who have committed atrocities against Congolese people. We hope you will act to arrest Ntaganda and surrender him to The Hague, and to put in place a judicial mechanism that can realize justice for the victims and an end to the culture of impunity.

Yours sincerely,

Kenneth Roth
Executive Director

Cc: His Excellency, Adolphe Muzito, Prime Minister
His Excellency, Charles Mwando Simba, Minister of Defence
His Excellency, Luzolo Bambi Lesa, Minister of Justice
His Excellency, Upio Kakura, Minister of Human Rights
Hon. Vital Kamerhe, President of the National Assembly
Hon. Leon Kengo Wa Dondo, President of the Senate
General John Numbi, Inspector General of the Police


  1. Who is Bosco Ntaganda?
    Ntaganda is accused of several war crimes and crimes against humanity including: the massacres of 150 people in the town of Kiwanja in 2008 in his duties as military chief of staff of the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), torturing and killing of hundreds of civilians of Lendu and Ngiti ethnicity between August 2002 and March 2003 when he was chief of military operations of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), slaughtering of at least 800 civilians on ethnic grounds at Mongbwalu, including the first priest killed in the Ituri conflict, Abbe Boniface Bwanalonga, killing of a Kenyan UN peacekeeper in January 2004 and kidnapping a Moroccan peacekeeper later that year, and recruiting child soldiers in the eastern region of Ituri. The MJPC is strongly urging the Congolese Government and MONUC to execute the arrest warrant issued by the ICC against Ntaganda.

    The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Bosco Ntaganda on August 22, 2006 for war crimes allegedly committed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). However,in January 2009, after Bosco ousted Laurent Nkunda as leader of the insurgent National Congress for the Defense of the People (CDNP), Congolese authorities appointed him a deputy commander of military operations conducted by the Rwandan and Congolese armies against Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebels. The government has justified its decision not to arrest him by citing the primacy of establishing peace in eastern Congo.
    But only a tireless effort to combat impunity in the African Great Lakes region will bring a sustainable end to the cycle of violence and mass killings plaguing eastern DRC.


    Allowing Bosco to remain at large is an affront to his past victims
    and risks the commission of further war crimes. To break the
    cycle of impunity:
    • The Congolese government must respect its obligation to collaborate with the ICC by arresting Bosco and transferring him to The Hague.
    • Bosco must be held accountable for the totality of crimes he has allegedly committed, and the Congolese justice system should cooperate with the ICC to this end.
    • The international community—particularly MONUC—should maintain pressure on the Congolese government to ensure that Bosco is arrested and held accountable.
    Over a decade of conflict with impunity has made clear that lasting peace will not be achieved in Congo until justice is served.

    Evidence suggests that in his capacity as deputy chief of the general staff of the FPLC Ntaganda was involved in serious human rights abuses, including massacres. In August 2002, for instance, combatants under his command allegedly surrounded the town of Sangolo and slaughtered Lendu and Ngiti civilians with firearms, machetes and spears. In addition, from August 2002 to March 2003, Ntaganda participated in the hunt, arrest and torture of hundreds of Lendu civilians in Bunia.

    Bosco Ntaganda is renowned for drinking a Cold Beer after a massacre as was witnessed in Kiwanja by the entire world.

  2. MJPC blames the Congolese Government for the Deteriorating Situation in East Congo(DRC)

    “There is no excuse for missing to pay salaries to soldiers in a lawless eastern Congo for six months”

    Following the deteriorating situation in east Congo, the MJPC called today for the Congolese Government to urgently pay the salaries to thousands of soldiers who have not been paid for over six months in eastern Congo, take swift action to enforce the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) warrant against Bosco Ntaganda and to hold accountable perpetrators of sexual violence against women for their acts.

    “Failing to hold accountable individuals who commit war crimes and crimes against humunity continues to be the leading cause of widespread and systematic sexual violence acts against girls and women in the easten Congo” said Makuba Sekombo, Community Affairs Director of the Mobilization for Justice and Peace in the DR Congo (MJPC).

    Mr. Sekombo again criticized the government of Congo for not only the continuing failure to protect women and young girls from sexual violence, but also for “encouraging conditions that create opportunities for sexual violence to occur”. “There is no excuse for missing to pay salaries to soldiers in a lawless eastern Congo for six months” said Sekombo.

    The MJPC has also renewed its call for the Congolese government to take urgent needed action to end human rights abuses in east Congo, hold perpetrators accountable and ensure reparation for the victims of sexual violence.

    The MJPC has been urging the Congolese government to compensate the victims of sexual violence in order to also help combat impunity in eastern part of Congo where sexual violence against women and children has been widely used as weapon of war for more than decade. The MJPC online petition calling for for help to put pressure on Congolese Government to compensate victims of sexual siolence in Eastern DRC can be signed at http://www.gopetition.com.au/online/26180.html

    About MJPC
    MJPC works to add a voice in advocating for justice and peace in the DRC particulary in the east of DRC where thousands innocent civilian including children and women continue to suffer massive human rights violations while armed groups responsible for these crimes go unpunished

    For more information about the MJPC and its activities, visit http://www.mjpcongo.org. or call Makuba Sekombo @ 1-408-8063-644 or e-mail: info@mjpcongo.org. The online petition calling on the Congolese Government to put urgently in place a comprehensive program of compensation for the victims of sexual violence in eastern Congo can be signed at http://www.gopetition.com.au/online/26180.html

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