Central African Republic Rebel Leader Faces ICC Today, Fears of Spillovers of Rebel Activities Grow in Cameroon

A former Commander of the Séléka rebels in the Central African Republic will appear for the first time before the International Criminal Court Thursday, January 28. Mahamat Said Abdel Kani was arrested and handed over to the ICC by authorities in the Central African Republic on January 24, 2021.

He is facing trial on accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity that he allegedly committed in 2013 in Bangui, following the overthrow of President François Bozize, and the ensuing war pitting the pro-Bozize Séléka rebels and the anti-Balaka that were against him.

Mahamat Said Abdel Kani surrendered to the ICC for war crimes and is standing trial today (C) Devdiscourse

No judgement will be delivered Thursday. Rather, the Single Judge Rosario Salvatore will use the initial appearance of the rebel leader to verify the identity of the suspect and the language in which he is able to follow the proceedings.

He will also be informed of the charges against him and of his rights under the ICC Rome Statute.

The Rome statute of 1998 that established the Court also identified four core international crimes, namely, genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crime of aggression.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a limited number of people will be allowed in the courtroom, but the hearing will be broadcast live on the ICC website in French, English and Sango.

The ICC issued a warrant of arrest for Mohamat Said Abdel Kani on January 7, 2019, but it was only on January 24 that he was arrested in Bria in the Central African Republic and surrendered to the Court.

He joins two other Central African Republic warlords at the ICC. Former anti-Balaka chief, Alfred Yekatom who is accused of crimes against humanity. He was handed over to the Court in 2018.

Patrice-Edouard Ngaisona has been awaiting trial at the ICC since 2018 (C) BBC

He was joined in 2019 by Central African Republic Football Chief, Patrice-Edouard Ngaisona, arrested on an ICC warrant that described him as the “senior leader” of the anti-Balaka.

Even as these cases are heard in the courts, fighting has continued in the Central African Republic. Recent fighting came after the December 27 Presidential Election that is now being disputed by the Séléka rebels after the candidature of former President, François Bozize-their preferred candidate, was rejected by the Constitutional Court.  

The coalition of Séléka rebels have been marching towards the capital Bangui in desperate attempts to overthrow President Faustin Archange Touadera who was re-elected for a second term.

The fighting has forced tens of thousands of Central African Republic citizens out of their homes, most of them seeking refuge in neighbouring Cameroon. The massive influx of Central African Republic refugees into Cameroon has continued to send fears down the spines of Yaounde that the armed groups could fund rings in its Eastern Region to overthrow the government of ageing President Paul Biya. A senior Cameroon Embassy official recently reported that plans were afoot to attack the country from the East.