The Rambo of Central Africa, a second knife at the International Criminal Court

Central African congressman Alfred Yekatom Rombhot arrested in Bangui on October 29, 2018.
Central African MP Alfred Yekatom Rombhot arrested in Bangui on October 29, 2018. GAEL GRILHOT / AFP

Alfred Yekatom Rombhot would have done better to remember that the customs of the life of a deputy sheriff are different from those of a little warlord. On October 29, when the elected representatives of the Central African nation gathered in the vast hemisphere built by China to elect a new President of the National Assembly, the Honorable & # 39; representative of the Mbaïki II district gave permission to take out a revolver and shoot two shots in the air to express his dissatisfaction. Arrested in flagrant delicto, placed under an arrest warrant, expropriated from his parliamentary immunity, he was eventually transferred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Saturday, November 17. A way to go to The Hague (Netherlands) and a return to Bangui probably far away.

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The new prisoner in Scheveningen prison, beaten by the cold winds of the North Sea, is not yet aware of the charges against him; but the Court indicated on the day of the transfer that it had established this "Reasonable reasons to believe that Mr. Yekatom the commission would have recorded or ordered, asked, encouraged and facilitated crimes against humanity and war crimes between December 2013 and August 2014.

Racket and intimidations

The face was eaten by a Cuban guerrilla beard, proficient from tight T-shirts with pompous messages like "Need for revolution, knowledge is a weapon" on a comfortable belly, Alfred Yekatom Rombhot, 42, was one of the victims of civil war in Central Africa. At the end of 2013 – early 2014, this former corporal commander of the army had settled at the south-western exit of Bangui, in the municipality of Bimbo, and controlled with his accomplices the movement of men and goods on the river Ubangi. the road to Mbaïki city: a group of anti-balaka's that is much more militarized than most hordes of unruly militia members who stood up to face the rebels of the Séléka, in power between March 2013 and January 2014, and expel Muslim citizens who are accused of supporting this hated regime.

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From his positions, "Colonel Rombhot" – which many have often called "Rambo," the context – with the certainty of the powerful new ones – helps to help the transitional authorities, with an emphasis on its relations with the officers of the French army and promising to assist in the evacuation of the last Muslims who were trapped in the pockets of an area that had become hostile to them. On the other hand, he was less talkative when it came to discussing the suspicion and the abuses of the nearly three thousand men under his command (a figure from the ICC but that seems to be largely overestimated). .

The paradox of Central Africa, in February 2016, the anti-balaka leader was brought to the National Assembly, less than six months after he was under UN sanctions because of his "Acts that jeopardize peace, stability or security in the Central African Republic". However, the UN group of experts had noted that the new representative had achieved his victory thereafter "Intimidated the voters and intimidated the other candidates in his constituency". His new white suits and chosen scarf did not prevent him from starting a career as an entrepreneur and recycling his activities as a militia leader at the boss of private security companies.


Until that time, the Central African Republic had been a good supplier of ICC affairs, so the translation of Congolese Jean-Pierre Bemba, tried and acquitted for the crimes committed between 2002 and 2003 by its militias in that country, and the Ugandan rebel Dominic Ongwen, former number two of the Lord & # 39; s Resistance Army (LRA). On the other hand, she had never sent her own subjects to international justice. Although he welcomes this recent arrest, followed by extradition, the NGO Human Rights Watch thinks that "The allegations against Yekatom should be the first of several ICC charges against crimes committed by all those involved in the Central African Republic."

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In September 2014, after referring to the Central African state, the ICC opened investigations into the crimes committed since 2012 by former Séléka and anti-balaka. Since then, the judicial fate of the main actors of the civil war has become a matter of which peace depends on this country. Protecting against possible persecution is indeed one of the first demands of leaders of militias from all sides, before they lay down their arms. That is why the transfer Would Alfred Yekatom have the value of a virtuous message when a large part of the Central African Republic remains under the control of warlords and the killings continue?

"Those who thought that amnesty would be the rule in political negotiations can establish that the fight against impunity is an option that is part of the authorities' strategy to achieve a lasting peace in the Central African Republic. make peace by negotiating, but maybe not with someone and not at any price. ", analyzes Florent Geel, the African leader of the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues.

Mass evasion

Nevertheless, the case of "Colonel Rombhot" is also indicative of Central African handicaps and what is seen as a new strategy of the ICC. From a good source, the suspect, whose arrest warrant was issued by the ICC on 11 November, was not a "Direct target" of the Court, but his arrest was generated at the end of October "A chance".

In theory, Alfred Yekatom would have been a perfect case for the newly opened Central African criminal court. However, this hybrid jurisdiction, consisting of local and international magistrates, is not yet operational and it is difficult to see how Bangui could hold people who still have an arsenal of war and capable men. to use it, while the prison of Ngaragba is regularly the scene of mass escapes. From then on, the place of Alfred Yekatom Rombhot was all found in The Hague.

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Twenty years ago, when the Rome Statute, which made the establishment of the ICC possible, was adopted, it was the ambition to try the biggest criminals: heads of state, senior executives in agonizing powers, bosses great uprisings. Since then, Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir has never carried out his arrest warrant, the former Congolese Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba has been released and the Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo is soon possible. The target has therefore once again focused on the second knives, sheets of the African continent, of which bringing into court no major political consequences.

Cyril Bensimon

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