C.Africa football boss and ‘Rambo’ on trial for war crimes
A former top Central African Republic football official and a militiaman nicknamed Rambo go on trial at the International Criminal court Tuesday charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Ex-sports minister Patrice-Edouard Ngaissona was allegedly a senior leader of mainly Christian anti-Balaka militias as the country slid into civil war in 2013, while Alfred Yekatom, an MP, is accused of commanding them on the ground.
The anti-Balaka, which means anti-machete, formed as vigilante self-defence groups after mainly Muslim rebels called the Seleka stormed the capital and removed then-president Francois Bozize, a Christian.
The trial in The Hague comes against a backdrop of continuing unrest in the CAR, with rebels waging an offensive against the government of current president Faustin Archange Touadera.
Ngaissona and Yekatom, 46, are the “highest ranking anti-Balaka leaders to face trial, and the first at the ICC”, Human Rights Watch said.
“The opening of the Yekatom and Ngaissona trial is a milestone for justice for victims of brutal crimes”, said Elise Keppler, associate international justice director at HRW.
The two men face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity including murder, torture, mutilation, persecution and the conscription of child soldiers from 2013 to 2014.
Ngaissona also faces charges of rape and attempted rape.
The trial — whose start was delayed by a week by “unexpected Covid-19-related circumstances” — starts at 0830 GMT with opening statements by the prosecution, defence and lawyers for victims.
– ‘Violence and terror’ –
Ngaissona was arrested in France in December 2018 and then extradited to the Hague. At the time he was head of the CAR football association and board member of the Confederation of African Football (CAF).
He was a key supporter of Bozize, whose ousting after a decade in power sparked vicious intercommunal fighting. He rose to become the “national general coordinator” of the anti-Balaka movement, prosecutors said…..read more