UCLA Students Spot ‘The Terminator’ While Traveling in DRC
By Carlton Purvis
Created 03/20/2012 - 12:58
By Carlton Purvis
After recognizing him in a convoy, a group of UCLA students have located the notorious war criminal Bosco Ntaganda and have videos and pictures of his compound.
A group of UCLA students have located a notorious war criminal and have videos and pictures of his compound after recognizing him in a convoy while doing research in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Six unnamed students and UCLA Law professor Richard Steinberg spotted Bosco Ntaganda while traveling through the DRC as part of The Sanela Diana Jenkins Human Rights Project. The group was researching appropriate reparations for victims of war crimes after the process goes through the International Criminal Court (ICC).
“A lot of the research is traveling and talking to victims to get their perspective on appropriate reparations. Goma [a DRC town that borders Rwanda] was our base of operations,” Steinberg said by phone on Tuesday. On March third, six days into its eight-day trip, the group was traveling on one of the main roads in Goma when it spotted a heavily armed convoy moving in the opposite direction.
“Congo is a pretty militarized place but...coming to an intersection and seeing three Jeeps with RPGs and mounted machine guns who are not UN Peacekeepers kind of jumps out at you. There was a guy talking to someone on the side of the road and we recognized him because his face is all over the place. If you do work in international criminal law, he’s one of the world’s 10 most wanted,” Steinberg said.
Steinberg was referring to Bosco Ntaganda, also known as “The Terminator.” Ntaganda is alleged to have led a militia that used child soldiers and massacred civilians in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He’s been wanted by the ICC since 2008 for war crimes (video emerged of an Ntaganda-ordered massacre of 150 villagers). Ntaganda also controls much of the conflict minerals trade in Eastern Congo; activists in the DRC accuse Ntaganda of smuggling local resources.
But despite being one of the most wanted warlords in the world, Ntaganda has never been one to keep a low profile, according to a report from Mother Jones human rights reporter Mac McClelland last year. Ntaganda travels openly wearing the Congolese Army uniform, dines at fine restaurants, and even owns a few.
“We talked to a lot of people who said they’d seen him around at restaurants and someone told us that he lived here on the border and he runs things from a compound that is right by the border. The proximity of this compound to the border helps facilitate getting conflict minerals brought into Rwanda,” Steinberg said.
“A clandestine video taken from the street shows the compound and some of Ntaganda’s soldiers on guard duty,” says a UCLA press release accompanying the media.
The video shows a large multi-story building, flanked by similarly sized structures, behind a tall cement wall. A man in uniform walks the perimeter. The video cuts as the man turns toward the camera.
Because of its sensitive nature, Steinberg declined to say who shot the video. The video was uploaded to YouTube last Monday.
So if Ntaganda is wanted for war crimes and lives openly in Goma, throwing dinner parties and driving on main roads, why hasn’t he been arrested? This shows that Ntaganda lives with impunity while enriching himself through the conflict minerals trade, Steinberg said.
It’s an open secret. “He’s not really hiding. If we can find him then every intelligence service and government knows where he is. So there are probably political reasons to not arrest him,” he said--some government corruption too.
“It’s speculated that powerful politicians in Kinshasa receive a share of his profit from his conflict minerals trade…[and others worry that his arrest] could also create a power vacuum in Eastern Congo that could be followed by even more conflict,” Steinberg said.
“It is our hope,” Steinberg said, “that the United States government will press the Congolese government to arrest Ntaganda and send him to The Hague for trial.”
For more photos from this trip by Jon Tobin, Editor-in-Chief of the UCLA Journal of International Law and Foreign Affairs, click here.
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