In the Central African Republic, an anti-balaka leader transferred to the International Criminal Court : new momentum in the fight against impunity?


Our organizations applaud the transfer today of Alfred “Rombhot” Yekatom to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The anti-balaka militia leader is the first person transferred to ICC in the context of its investigation into the crimes committed since 2012 between the Seleka and the anti-balaka in the Central African Republic. Our organizations investigated the crimes and abuses committed by Yekatom and his militia since 2013 in the west and south of the country.

«The transfer of Yekatom from Bangui to the ICC confirms the authorities’ commitment to cooperate with the ICC when they are unable to pursue those most responsible for war crimes, In January, a court in the Central African Republic sentenced the militia leader Andjilo to life in prison. At the end of October, the Special Criminal Court was inaugurated. Today, the transfer of Yekatom to the ICC confirms the commitment by the authorities to fight against impunity against the perpetrators of the most serious crimes. »

Me Drissa Traoré, vice president of FIDH.

The transfer of Alfred Yekatom comes 15 days after he was arrested by Central African armed forces after he shot a gun twice in the auditorium of the the National Assembly during the election of a new National Assembly president.

An anti-balaka leader moves into politics and the security business

Under sanctions (1) by the United Nations Security Council since 2015, Yekatom controlled around 10 strategic points during the conflict between 2013 and 2014. As a former corporal in the Central African Republic’s armed forces, he commanded some 100 armed militia members. They operated mainly in the southwest of Bangui and in the town of Bimbo, located 5km from the capital. As the head of the anti-balaka, he controlled lucrative checkpoints on the commercial road leading from Bangui to Mbaïki, a town in the southwest of the country. His members demanded illegal taxes between the towns of Pissa and Batalimo (2).

Concerned about maintaining an appearance of legality, Alfred Yekatom created the private security company, Koya, which worked in the neighborhoods where his militia members were deployed. In 2017, the company provided security for the palm oil companies Palmex and Palm d’Or in Lobaye prefecture in the south of the country.

Our organizations suspect Yekatom and his militia members of rape and murder against civilians in areas under their control, notably executions in Bangui’s 6th district. In addition, Yekatom recruited child soldiers and made them fight within his armed group. In August 2014, more than 150 of them were turned over to UNICEF.

After the Jean-Pierre Bemba acquittal, a crucial test for the ICC in the Central African Republic

This is the first arrest warrant, and rapid transfer, of a suspect to the ICC in the context of its investigations opened in September 2014 into crimes committed by the Seleka and anti-balaka since 2012, after the referral from the Central African Republic.

« This first arrest warrant against an anti-balaka leader should be followed as soon as possible with other charges especially against the former Seleka leaders so that the ICC can target the perpetrators of these crimes and better reflect the the totality of abuses suffered by victims. »

Me Drissa Traoré, vice president of FIDH.


On June 8, 2018, the ICC appeals chamber acquitted the Congolese warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba of murder, rape, and pillage committed between 2002 and 2003 by his troops in the Central African Republic. The acquittal befuddled the 5,229 Central African victims who participated in the trial (4).

« Four months after its inability to sentence Jean-Pierre Bemba, the ICC should show its ability to be a strong actor in the fight against impunity in the Central African Republic. »

Albert Panda, vice président of OCDH.


The political dialogue must not be done at the cost of impunity

While the political dialogue with armed groups is planned in the coming weeks, other encouraging signs show that the justice system is redeploying in the Central African Republic. A new criminal session will start in Bangui on November 19, while the first investigations of the Special Criminal Court are slated to start in the coming days. If the country’s warlords have taken to calling for amnesty and / or political power at each negotiation session (5), the practice no longer seems to be working.

«The transfer of Yekatom as the political dialogue between armed groups and the African Union approaches should be taken as a strong signal.In the Central African Republic, political power should no long be able to be attained through the gun. The perpetrators of mass crimes are not shielded from justice and will be called to answer to their victims. »

Alain Kizinguere, vice president of LCDH.


On November 11th, the ICC issued an arrest warrant against Yekatom for war crimes and crimes against humanity, wich include murder, torture, persecution, forcible transfer of population, destruction of religious edifices, child soldier recrutment.

(2) Near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo
(3) Yekatom, also known as Rambo or Rombhot, was mentioned in our report. “Central African Republic: They must all leave or die.” 2014, p. 64.

Press Contacts :
Florent Geel (Head of FIDH African Desk) +33648059223
Pierre Brunisso (FIDH Field Coordinator in CAR) +23672591850 / +23672206539

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