In The Hague, the hearing in the Central African case was resumed by Alfred Yekatom Rhombot / Patrice Edouard Ngaïssona on Monday, August 30, after being suspended in June. A 16-year-old witness, subject to anonymity, was questioned about the attacks in the Bossangoa region in 2013.
She is presented as Witness P-2462. On Monday, in open court, she talks about her flight to the imam’s residence during the Bossangoa attack on December 5, 2013, her life as a displaced person inside the city and then in Chad. In The Hague, questions to witnesses are often accurate. The court questions them about the perpetrators of crime or their accomplices, some of whom are undoubtedly still active. Witnesses to P-2462’s answers are often brief and full of emotion. But more often it was behind closed doors that she told about the events: her house burned down and then rape …
At the time, Bossangoa was in the hands of Seleka, an alliance of Muslim-majority armed groups that seized power by force in Bangui, 300 km away. Many abuses are committed. In response, anti-balaka militias organize. Muslim populations assimilated with Seleka are particularly targeted. In September 2013, the villages surrounding Bossangoa were attacked by these anti-balaka, since December, the city was also targeted. Hundreds of Muslim residents are killed, their houses set on fire, their livestock killed or stolen, Human Rights Watch states in one of its reports.
Alfred Yekatom Rhombot, denim jacket, wool scarf and Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssonna, glasses and blue suit, participated in the hearing. They were the respective commanders of a group of about 3,000 elements and the “general coordinator” of anti-balaka.
► To read also: Central African Republic: trial of two commanders against balaka begins before ICC
If Witness P-2462 is protected by all possible anonymity measures, it is because the trial continues to resonate in the Central African Republic. Assassinations, looting, destruction of homes … The people were once again victims of several acts of violence. In Bossangoa in early March, 14,000 people were displaced. In all, nearly 78,000 people have fled their homes and are now counted in Ouham Prefecture. In June, this prefecture was also among the most affected by violence against humanitarian personnel.
If the Bossangoa region is often subject to tension, it is because it is strategic. The cradle of anti-balaka, it is also the region of origin of François Bozizé. Prevented from running in the December elections last year, the former president became the coordinator of the new armed coalition, the CPC. At the beginning of the year, when Bozizé had retreated to Bossangoa, the armed counter-offensive proceeded rapidly.
The hearing was adjourned in the afternoon and will resume tomorrow morning with questions from the defense. And it is possible in the Central African Republic of Bangui to take part in the live broadcast of the hearing at the “public information center” located at the level of the ICC office.