Central African Republic: Former Militia Leader Arrested on Suspicion of War Crimes

UN peacekeepers on patrol (file photo).

A leading African soccer official was arrested Wednesday in France on charges of war crimes committed in the Central African Republic.

Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC) said Patrice Edouard Ngaissona was the most senior leader and "national general coordinator'' of the anti-Balaka militia.

The ICC said that as the leader of the mostly Christian militia, Ngaissona was suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity including murder, extermination, deportation, persecution, torture, attacking civilians and recruiting child soldiers.

The anti-Balaka militia was formed in 2013 to counter the Muslim Seleka rebels who seized control of the CAR capital, Bangui and ousted President Francois Bozize. The resulting civil war has killed thousands and displaced hundreds of thousands more.

Ngaissona is head of his country's national soccer federation. In February, he was elected to the executive committee of the Confederation of African Football, the governing body for soccer on the continent, prompting many to think he was untouchable. But Lewis Mudge, senior researcher in the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch, said the arrest proved "even high-level figures implicated in grave crimes can be arrested to face justice."

Amnesty International, which named Ngaissona and 19 others as possible war crimes suspects in 2014, called the arrest a "major step forward in the fight against impunity in the Central African Republic.''

Another anti-Balaka leader, Alfred Yekatom, was sent to the ICC at The Hague last month.

ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has said the court is investigating all sides of the conflict, but so far, no Seleka rebels have been publicly charged.

See What Everyone is Watching

More From: VOA

Don't Miss

AllAfrica publishes around 700 reports a day from more than 140 news organizations and over 500 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.