Militia leaders of Christian leaders of the Central African Republic (CAR) who are accused of conducting attacks against the Muslim community in the country have rejected all such charges at the start of their trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Patrice-Edouard Ngaissona, a former African soccer executive whom prosecutors say was a senior leader of the so-called anti-Balaka militias in 2013 and 2014, and Alfred Yekatom, also known as “Rambo”, pleaded not guilty to charges relating to attacks on Muslim civilians.
“I do not recognise myself at all in the charges against me, I am not guilty,” Ngaissona, 53, said.
Prosecutors said Ngaissona was an integral part of the Anti-balaka movement.
“He knew the group he was helping to arm, finance, instruct and organise, known by September 2013 as the Anti-balaka, would inevitably target the Muslim civilian population of western CAR. He knew the vengeance within them,” prosecutor Kweku Vanderpuye told the court.
The trial starts against a backdrop of fighting between the CAR army, backed by United Nations, Russian and Rwandan troops, and rebels from both militia groups who have now formed an alliance with the aim of seizing the capital and overturning a December 27 vote in which President Faustin-Archange Touadera was declared the winner.