Ex-football chief on trial for war crimes

Patrice-Edouard Ngaissona, the former head of the Central African Republic (CAR) football federation is set to go on trial for war crimes at the International Criminal Court.

Ngaissona, who led a mainly Christian anti-Balaka group, also faces crimes against humanity charges, which he denies, the BBC reported on Tuesday.

He and Alfred Yekatom are accused of coordinating attacks against the country’s Muslim population in 2013-14.

The International Criminal Court alleges Yekatom was responsible for murder, torture, attacking civilians and using child fighters as a former militia leader of the anti-Balaka group.

He denies the allegations.

Yekatom was elected as an MP in 2016, despite being subject to UN sanctions.

Violence continues to grip CAR, two-thirds of which is in rebel hands.

The former French colony was plunged into turmoil in 2013 when predominately Muslim rebels from the Seleka group seized power in the majority Christian country.

A band of mostly Christian militias, called the anti-Balaka, rose up to counter Seleka after then President Francois Bozize was ousted.

Thousands were killed in subsequent clashes and the United Nations says more than a million people were forced to flee their homes.

Ngaissona was the self-declared political co-ordinator of anti-Balaka forces.

In this role, the International Criminal Court says, he committed war crimes and crimes against humanity including murder, torture and the recruitment of child soldiers.

Ngaissona was barred from running for CAR president in 2015 because of his alleged role in the atrocities, which he denies.

He is a former head of the CAR’s football federation and briefly served as sports minister before being elected to the Confederation of African Football (Caf) in February 2018.

His appointment was criticised by several human rights groups.

“I don’t mix politics and sport – everything I’ve done has been for the good of my country,” he said.