NAIROBI, Kenya — Bosco Ntaganda, aka The Terminator, has for years enjoyed a life of luxury and impunity in eastern Congo.
He plays tennis at a smart hotel, drinks in popular bars, owns businesses and commands sections of the national army. He is also wanted for war crimes.
Five years ago he was indicted by the International Criminal Court on similar charges to his his former boss, Thomas Lubanga, who was found guilty last month of recruiting child soldiers. Ntaganda is also accused of murder and rape committed in the northeastern Ituri region between 2002-2003.
Soon after that judgement hundreds of Ntaganda loyalists integrated into the Congo army as part of a 2009 peace deal defected while their commander went to ground. Now Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila has said, for the first time, that Ntaganda should face justice, but before a Congolese court not at The Hague.
"I want to arrest Bosco Ntaganda because the whole population wants peace," Kabila said, according to Reuters.
But on his CongoSiasa blog author and Congo analyst Jason Stearns points out that Kabila spoke in Swahili and the message may in fact be rather less determined, simply raising the possibility of his arrest rather than ordering it.
In a statement ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said: "Bosco Ntaganda is a fugitive from justice and is allegedly responsible for massive crimes in the Kivus. He should be arrested for the safety and the security of victims and citizens in the whole region."
Congolese officials have in the past stressed that Ntaganda's freedom is "the price of peace" calculating that his arrest (or even the attempt to arrest him) would trigger renewed fighting allowing the former warlord to hold the region's peace to ransom. That seems now to be changing, spelling uncertain and worrying times ahead for the people of eastern Congo.