(Goma) – Congolese human rights activists and victims of abuses allegedly carried out by Bosco Ntaganda’s troops have expressed support and relief at the rebel leader’s transfer to the International Criminal Court in new video clips released by Human Rights Watch today. The court had sought Ntaganda’s arrest for seven years. He is wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ituri region in 2002 and 2003.
Justine Masika Bihamba, the coordinator of a Congolese women’s network based in Goma, Congo, has been threatened repeatedly over the years for denouncing abuses by Ntaganda’s forces and calling for his arrest.
“It was a life of horror,” Bihamba said. “And now, today, thank God, he’s going to face justice. What gives me the most comfort is that you may think you are a warlord and are untouchable as you are called The Terminator, but you should know that one day justice will triumph.”
A 16-year-old boy, who was kidnapped on his way to school by rebel troops loyal to Ntaganda earlier in March 2013, told Human Rights Watch that Ntaganda had personally authorized the distribution of weapons and sent him to the front lines during the recent infighting between opposing factions of Ntaganda’s latest rebel group, the M23. Ten of his schoolmates who were also forcibly recruited died on the front lines.
The boy expressed relief about Ntaganda’s arrest, saying, “Now he can no longer come back to where I live and take me from school and take me to war.”
“The atrocities by forces under Bosco Ntaganda’s command have affected thousands of Congolese in eastern Congo for over a decade,” said Ida Sawyer, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Their voices shine a light on how deeply these abuses scarred the nation and how important Ntaganda’s expected trial is for those who have been harmed and who seek justice.”