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Central African Republic soccer executive and alleged militia leader, Patrice-Edouard Ngaissona appears before the International Criminal Court
Former soccer official Patrice-Edouard Ngaissona is accused of involvement in atrocities including murder, torture and attacking civiliansImage: Koen Van Weel/REUTERS

CAR: Ex-soccer boss and 'Rambo' on trial for war crimes

February 16, 2021

The two men have pleaded not guilty to war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Central African Republic. These include murder, torture, mutilation, persecution and the conscription of child soldiers.


The former head of the Central African Republic football association  went on trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) Tuesday.

Patrice-Edouard Ngaissona and co-defendant Alfred Yekatom pleaded not guilty to charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

At the time of his arrest in 2018,Ngaissona was also a board member of the Confederation of African Football (CAF).

Rehabilitating child soldiers

What are the charges in detail?

Prosecutors allege the two men committed the crimes while leading Christian-dominated anti-Balaka militias in the Central African Republic.

They formed after a coalition of predominantly Muslim rebels known as Seleka seized power in March 2013, ousting then-president Francois Bozize, a Christian.

The militias carried out widespread attacks on Muslims during 2013 and 2014.

An anti-Balaka militiaman
The anti-Balaka militias carried out widespread attacks on Muslims during 2013 and 2014Image: Getty Images/AFP/I. Lieman

Charges against Ngaissona include murder, rape, attempted rape, persecution and torture.

Prosecutors say he committed the crimes while he was a senior leader and national coordinator of the anti-Balaka militias.

Co-accused Alfred Yekatom, 46, a former militia commander who styled himself as Rambo after a movie character, faces additional counts for his alleged use of child soldiers. He does not face rape charges.

Both men have said they are innocent.

Alfred Yekatom, center, a Central African Republic lawmaker and militia leader who goes by the nickname Rambo, appears before the International Criminal Court
Alfred Yekatom is a Central African Republic lawmaker and militia leader who goes by the nickname RamboImage: Piroschka van de Wouw/AP Photo/picture alliance

Why is the trial important?

Ngaissona and Yekatom, 46, are the "highest ranking anti-Balaka leaders to face trial, and the first at the ICC", NGO 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.

CAR – a country under siege

What is the current situation in the CAR?

The CAR is one of the world's poorest countries despite its rich natural resources. Its history of unrest stretches back to independence from France in 1960.

The trial in The Hague is going ahead against a backdrop of continuing unrest in the CAR. Rebels are waging an offensive against the government of current president Faustin Archange Touadera.

A counter-offensive has seen pro-government forces retake a series of towns from the rebels in recent days.

kmm/rt (Reuters, AFP)

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