Central African warlord to face ICC judges on Friday

Yekatom was arrested in October for firing a gun into the air in the CAR parliament
Photo: AFP

A former Central African militia leader Alfred Yekatom, also known as “Colonel Rambo” will face international war crimes judges for the first time on Friday, the International Criminal Court said.

“The initial appearance of Alfred Yekatom… is scheduled for Friday, November 23, at 11:00 local time,” the Hague-based court said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

At Friday’s hearing, judges will “verify the identity of the suspect and the language in which he is able to follow the proceedings.”

“He will be informed of the charges against him,” the ICC added.

Yekatom arrived at the ICC’s detention unit over the weekend after being extradited from the Central African Republic where he is suspected of having committed war crimes and crimes against humanity including murder and recruiting child soldiers.

He is accused of leading a group of some 3 000 so-called anti-Balaka militias responsible for attacks on Muslims in the volatile country between December 2013 and August 2014.

Yekatom, who has been an elected MP since 2016, was arrested in October after he drew his gun and fired into the air in the CAR parliament during an altercation.

His transfer is the first since the ICC’s chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda opened a probe in 2014 on crimes committed in fighting between Christian and Muslim groups.

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% of the population, organised vigilante units dubbed “anti-Balaka” in reference to a local machete.

The deadly violence so far has seen thousands killed and more than a quarter of the country’s population fleeing their homes, according to UN figures published this year.