Bosco Ntaganda, nicknamed “Terminator”, was convicted on 18 counts including murder, rape, sexual slavery and using child soldiers.
Judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) found in July that fighters loyal to Ntaganda had carried out gruesome massacres of civilians.
The sentence is the longest the ICC has handed down.
As Ntaganda listened intently, judge Robert Fremr ran through an extensive list of atrocities carried out by Ntaganda’s men, including rape and sexually enslavement of young children. Judge Fremr highlighted the case of a 13-year-old rape victim who underwent years of surgery and developed a long-lasting fear that caused her to drop out of school.
He told the defendant there were no real mitigating circumstance in his case, but said his crimes, “despite their gravity and his degree of culpability”, did not merit a life sentence. Ntaganda has already appealed against his conviction.
Ntaganda was the first person to be convicted of sexual slavery by the ICC and overall the fourth person the court has convicted since its creation in 2002. The Rwanda-born 46-year-old former rebel was involved in numerous armed conflicts in both Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. He surrendered at the US embassy in Rwanda in 2013.
Analysts said it was an act of self-preservation, motivated by the danger he was in after losing a power-struggle within his M23 rebel group.