Ex-Central Africa militia leader arrives at ICC detention center: spokesman

In this file photo taken on October 29, 2018 members of the armed forces arrest Central African MP Alfred Yekatom aka "Rambo" (C), who represents the southern M'baiki district former militia leader, after he fired the gun at the parliament in Bangui. (AFP)
Updated 18 November 2018
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Ex-Central Africa militia leader arrives at ICC detention center: spokesman

  • The ICC said Yekatom would be tried for “alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity” carried out by so-called anti-balaka militias

THE HAGUE: A former Central African Republic militia leader nicknamed “Col. Rambo” arrived on Saturday in The Hague, where he will stand trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court.
Currently a lawmaker, Alfred Yekatom’s extradition was the first of its kind from the CAR.
“The suspect arrived in the detention center,” said ICC spokesman Fadi El Abdallah of the former army officer, who was the target of US sanctions in 2015 for suspected attacks against Muslims, civilian deaths, and for using child fighters.
After being elected to parliament in 2016, Yekatom, 43, was arrested in October for opening fire inside the legislature while its new president was being elected.
ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda welcomed the extradition, saying it “advances the cause of justice in the Central African Republic” and promising that she would continue to pursue her “quest for truth and justice.”
Pierre Brunisso from the International Federation of Human Rights watchdog added that it sent “a strong message to the leaders of armed groups.”
“Those who think they can claim an amnesty at the negotiating table are mistaken,” he said.
The ICC said Yekatom would be tried for “alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity” carried out by so-called anti-balaka militias.
The court launched an investigation in September 2014 into crimes committed in the country since 2012.
A three-judge bench of The Hague-based court’s pre-trial chamber issued an arrest warrant against Yekatom last Sunday.
“The Chamber is satisfied that the overall supporting evidence is sufficient to establish reasonable grounds that Yekatom bears criminal responsibility,” the judges said in the warrant, made public by the ICC late on Saturday.
This included acts of murder, torture, deportation and using child soldiers younger than 15 years in the anti-balaka group between December 5, 2013 and August 2014.
In continuing violence the CAR, however, a Tanzanian peacekeeper died late Friday after an attack on a United Nations base and a priest was found burned to death, the UN and the Catholic Church said after sectarian clashes that claimed nearly 40 lives.
The soldier died of injuries sustained in the raid on the base in Gbambia in the country’s west, the UN mission MINUSCA said.

An armed group called Siriri, created this year by Fulani cattle herders, operates in the area. Led by a man named Ardo Abba, its purported aim is to thwart attacks by cattle rustlers.
The UN said the group had attacked Gbambia in mid-June. A Tanzanian UN peacekeeper died that month after Siriri staged an ambush in the region.
Meanwhile, the priest’s charred body was recovered in the central town of Alindao, Father Mathieu Bondobo, vicar-general of the main cathedral in Bangui, told AFP.
On Friday, the UN said 37 deaths were confirmed in Alindao — including that of another priest — while 20,000 people were affected by the violence. “Thousands” were forced to flee.
The bloodletting began Thursday when Christian militiamen killed Muslims, prompting revenge attacks during which a church was set ablaze.
Alindao is a stronghold of the Union for Peace in CAR (UPC), a Muslim militia. It has witnessed chronic fighting in recent months that has also killed other UN soldiers and a humanitarian aid worker.

One of the world’s poorest nations despite a rich supply of diamonds and uranium, the CAR has struggled to recover from a 2013 civil war that erupted when President Francois Bozize, a Christian, was overthrown by mainly Muslim Seleka rebels.
In response, Christians, who account for about 80 percent of the population, organized vigilante units dubbed “anti-balaka” in reference to a type of machete.
In September, the UN warned of a “disastrous” humanitarian situation in the region, which it said was under the control of armed groups.
The government controls only a small part of the country.
The UN has about 12,500 personnel deployed in the CAR as part of its MINUSCA mission, one of the world body’s largest peacekeeping forces.
 


Afghan Taliban to meet US officials in UAE

Updated 17 December 2018
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Afghan Taliban to meet US officials in UAE

  • The meetings come as diplomatic efforts to resolve the Afghan conflict have intensified
  • The Taliban say the presence of international forces in Afghanistan is the main obstacle to peace

KABUL: Representatives from the Afghan Taliban will meet US officials in the United Arab Emirates on Monday, the movement’s main spokesman said as diplomatic moves toward agreeing to the basis for talks to end the 17-year war in Afghanistan continue.
Zabihullah Mujahid said representatives from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the UAE would also take part in the meeting, which follows at least two meetings between Taliban officials and US special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Qatar.
He made the announcement in a statement on Twitter.
The meetings come as diplomatic efforts to resolve the Afghan conflict have intensified, although the Taliban have so far refused to deal directly with the Western-backed government in Kabul, which it considers illegitimate.
The Taliban say the presence of international forces in Afghanistan is the main obstacle to peace but have said that issues including mutual recognition with the Kabul government, constitutional changes and women’s rights can be negotiated.