Central African Militia Leader Appears at ICC

A Central African Republic militia leader appeared on Tuesday before a pre-trial chamber of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, after he was last week handed over by Chad to face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

ICC The HagueA Central African Republic militia leader appeared on Tuesday before a pre-trial chamber of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, after he was last week handed over by Chad to face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. (Photo: Gregor Ravik, Flickr, License)Maxime Jeoffroy Eli Mokom Gawaka, also known as Mr Mokom, is believed to have coordinated operations of a mainly Christian group that fought against the predominantly Muslim Séléka rebels in the Central African Republic, CAR.

The conflict that appears to be based on religious identities took thousands of lives and turned hundreds of thousands into refugees in 2013 and 2014. However, many believe that the fighting is really about who will control the mineral resources, including diamonds.

Armed groups have carved out territorial factions to collect illegal taxes, and take in millions of dollars from the illegal coffee, mineral, and timber trades.

Human Rights Watch CAR Director Lewis Mudge said that Séléka leaders “claim to be fighting for political reasons, but it seems to me more certainly that it is to control the axes linked to the gold mines.”

On Tuesday, the Chamber confirmed Mokom’s identity and informed him of the crimes he is alleged to have committed and of his rights, a statement from the ICC said.

Mokom’s charges still have to be confirmed but prosecutors accuse him of murder, extermination, deportation, imprisonment, torture, persecution, enforced disappearance and other inhumane acts commited against the Muslim population around Bangui.

He also is accused of intentionally attacking civilians and humanitarian aid workers, of pillaging and turning children into soldiers.

Mokom fled to Chad shortly after he took part in a rebel coalition that unsuccessfully tried to take power in 2020. Chad handed him over to the court last week.

He is the third anti-balaka leader to be sent to The Hague, while only one Seleka commander, Mahamat Said Abdel Kan, is at the ICC.