Government Minister Hassan Bouba Should Be Prosecuted for Alleged War Crimes
Last week, Hassan Bouba, the minister of livestock and animal health in the Central African Republic, gave a press conference while on a ministerial trip. He was in Ngakobo, a town in the Ouaka province. He spoke of increased violence by armed groups in the region, saying it was "unacceptable" and calling for "justice."
But he of all people should be facing justice.
Bouba helped lead the Union for Peace in the Central African Republic (Unité pour la Paix en Centrafrique, UPC), a rebel group that committed serious crimes across the Ouaka province for years. The authorities arrested him in November 2021 on war crimes and crimes against humanity charges brought by the Special Criminal Court, the country's hybrid war crimes court based in the domestic justice system. Later that month, national gendarmes escorted Bouba out of prison and took him to his home, which the Special Criminal Court described as an "escape."
Since then, he has remained a fugitive while serving as minister, becoming the embodiment of impunity in the country.
That Bouba gave a press conference in Ngakobo adds insult to injury. From 2014 to 2017, Human Rights Watch documented 246 civilians killed and 2,050 homes destroyed by Bouba's UPC fighters in the Ouaka province. These numbers are conservative; we could not verify hundreds of cases.
The UPC attacked camps for displaced people, including at Ngakobo. The mother of a child killed during an attack there in 2015 told us, "We all laid on the ground as the bullets whistled above us. It was a few minutes after the shooting started that I heard Junior say, 'I'm dying.' I saw that he was not breathing and had been shot in the head." The UPC also raped scores of women and girls.
Bouba should face justice for his alleged role in overseeing or failing to prevent serious crimes. There is a warrant for Bouba's arrest, and if he genuinely cared about justice, he would surrender to the authorities. The government's failure to support the Special Criminal Court and secure Bouba's arrest shows a lack of political will to enforce its stated commitment to justice. The government should rearrest Bouba on behalf of the victims of Ngakobo and many others who are entitled to see him held to account. Otherwise, justice would be the empty words Bouba assumes them to be.
Lewis Mudge, Director, Central Africa