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Former Central African rebel leader, Abdel Kan, goes on trial at ICC

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A former senior rebel commander in the Central African Republic, Mahamat Said Abdel Kani, has been put on trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague on seven counts including war crimes, murder, crimes against humanity, and torturing alleged opposition supporters.

Abdel Kani was indicted in the war crimes for his role in the brutal 2013 persecution of residents in the capital Bangui, who were accused of supporting ousted president Francois Bozize, which plunged the country into a sectarian violence that claimed thousands of lives.

The impoverished country was thrown into a bloody conflict in that year when Bozize was overthrown by a rebel coalition called the Seleka, drawn largely from the Muslim minority.

The coup triggered a sectarian bloodbath between the Seleka and “anti-Balaka”, which means “anti-machete” forces, who were mainly Christian or animist and who backed Bozize.

At the first hearing on Tuesday, prosecutors said Abdel Kani, 52, was a senior Seleka commander in charge of a police compound where alleged Bozize supporters were beaten and tortured after they were arrested.

Sometimes referred to as “colonel”, “chief” or “director”, Said allegedly “oversaw the day-to-day operations of the compound which belonged to a police unit called the Central Office for the Repression of Banditry or OCRB”, his arrest warrant said.

He was also said to have instructed subordinates to “mistreat detainees for allegedly supporting Bozize or the anti-Balaka, subjecting them to the so-called arbatachar torture method to extract confessions”, the indictment added.

“The torture technique involved tying a person’s elbows to their feet behind their backs, thereby placing them in an excruciating painful position which often caused permanent bodily damage.

“Prisoners were kept in cramped conditions and even thrown in a small underground cell, only accessible through a hole in the floor of Said’s office at the OCRB headquarters in the capital.

“Said oversaw the detention of men who were beaten with rifle butts, or slapped violently and threatened with death.

“Others were whipped with horsehide whips or sticks with metal wires, beaten with truncheons on their feet while kneeling, or had their ears pulled with pliers and partially ripped off,” ICC prosecutors said.

Abdel Kani was handed over to the ICC by the CAR authorities in January last year in response to an international arrest warrant issued in 2019.

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Rwanda accuses US of inflaming crisis in eastern DRC

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The government of Rwanda on Tuesday, accused the United States as well as the international community of ‘exacerbating and inflaming’ the crisis in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The accusation was made by the Foreign Affairs Ministry after the US urged Kigali to stop any support for the M23 rebels who have a base in a Rwandan territory.

The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, had in a telephone call on Sunday to Rwandan President Paul Kagame, said “it was clear that all external support to non-state armed groups in the DRC must end, including Rwanda’s support for M23.”

But in a press release published on Tuesday, the Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vincent Biruta, affirmed that Paul Kagame and Anthony Blinken “had had good exchanges but that differences remain on the understanding of the problem.”

“The erroneous approach of the United States and the international community continues to exacerbate the problem in the east DRC.

“Rwanda’s security problems must be taken into account… M23 should not be equated with Rwanda,” Biruta said.

The crisis in eastern DRC between government forces and the M23 rebels which is made up of mainly Tutsi ethnic group, a predominant tribe in Rwanda, has continued to heighten tensions between the two neighbours with the DRC accusing Rwanda of supporting and encouraging the militia, accusations Kigali has always denies.

Rwanda on its part, has often blamed the crisis in eastern DRC on authorities in Kinshasa and accused the international community of turning a blind eye to DRC’s support for the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a rebel group made of Rwandan Hutus who were involved in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

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Somali forces, local vigilantes, recapture strategic town from Al-Shabaab terrorists

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The Somali National Army (SNA), alongside local vigilantes popularly called Mo’awisley, on Monday, recaptured the strategic city of Adan Yabaal from the al-Shabaab terrorist group, the military said in a bulletin on Tuesday.

According to the statement, the town located near the border between Hiran and Middle Shabelle regions that comprise Hirshabelle State, which is about 220 kilometres north of the capital Mogadishu, is one of the five federal member states of the Federal Government of Somalia, and had been a strategic location held by the al-Qaeda-sponsored extremist group.

The SNA said in the bulletin that it met no resistance from the al-Shabaab fighters who left the town without posing resistance on getting information about the approach of the federal troops.

Al-Shabaab have lost most of the towns and settlements in Hirshabelle State, both Hiran and Middle Shabelle regions, after the SNA and Mo’awisley vigilantes waged offensive wars.

“Mo’awisley vigilantes, who are mainly composed of nomadic herders, took up arms and rebelled against the jihadists’ confiscation of their livestock and illegal tax collection known as zakawaat.

“Over the last couple of weeks, the government forces and the vigilantes have been gradually inching towards the town which they seized on Monday. The town had been under the full control of al-Shabaab for over a decade,” the bulletin said.

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