CAR ex-militia leader extradited to ICC for trial

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 on October 29, 2018. - A lawmaker fired into the air in the Central African Republic's parliament on October 29, 2018 after an altercation with a colleague as MPs prepared to vote for a new speaker. (Photo by Gael GRILHOT / AFP) (Photo credit should read GAEL GRILHOT/AFP/Getty Images)
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 on October 29, 2018. – A lawmaker fired into the air in the Central African Republic’s parliament on October 29, 2018 after an altercation with a colleague as MPs prepared to vote for a new speaker. (Photo by Gael GRILHOT / AFP)

Central African Republic (CAR) lawmaker and former militia leader Alfred Yekatom was extradited to The Hague on Saturday to stand trial in the International Criminal Court probing war crimes and crimes against humanity, a government source said.

The source said the charges against Yekatom, a former militia leader of a faction of the anti-balaka movement involved in sectarian bloodletting, were not specified.

It was the first extradition from CAR to the court.

“The plane will arrive in The Hague at about 2030 GMT,” the source told AFP.

The ICC launched an investigation in September 2014 into crimes committed in the country since 2012.

Yekatom’s militia operated in the south of the country. In 2015, he became the target of US sanctions for suspected attacks against Muslims, civilian deaths, and for using 153 child fighters.

A former army officer, Yekatom was elected MP in 2016. He was arrested in October for opening fire inside the legislature when the new president of parliament was being elected.

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”.

The UN has about 12 500 personnel deployed in Central Africa as part of its MINUSCA mission, one of the world body’s largest peacekeeping forces.