Christian militia leader arrested in CAR: charges include murder and rape

Muslim families fearing militia attacks flee their homes in Central African Republic.Aurelio Gazzera | Caritas

A senior leader of the Christian militia battling rival Islamic militants in the Central African Republic (CAR) has been arrested by UN peacekeepers for crimes including murder, rebellion, rape and looting.

Rodrigue Ngaibona, known as Andilo, was detained 195 miles north of the capital, Bangui, on Saturday.

Ngaibona is a leader of the so-called Christian 'anti-balaka' militia formed to combat the mostly Muslim Seleka rebels who seized power in the majority Christian country in 2013. The anti-balaka brigades have been accused of atrocities including cannibalism and ethnic cleansing, leading to almost the entire Muslim population of the south of the CAR fleeing and becoming refugees.

In a report released last October UN experts said: "Andilo is currently the most enigmatic, feared and powerful military commander of the anti-balaka."

He could be tried at the International Criminal Court at The Hague, a process that could take many years.

A report by Conflict Armament Research has found that guns and ammunition made in Europe, China and Iran are being smuggled in to the CAR. Ammunition made in the UK, Belgium and the Czech Republic is being used, as well as German-made military trucks. The collapse of effective government in the country, with shifting alliances in the Muslim and Christian blocs, has also led to the presence there of the remnant of the Lord's Resistance Army terrorist militia, one of whose commanders, Dominic Ongwen, surrendered recently.

An Amnesty International report in December criticised the CAR authorities and the UN for failing to investigate war crimes, saying that this was "perpetuating the cycle of violence and fear" in the country. The 'Central African Republic: Impunity is fuelling violence' report details how some leaders and members of armed groups have continued to commit further atrocities and defy the rule of law.

Amnesty spokesman Steve Cockburn said: "The failure to hold accountable those implicated in the killing of civilians, the use of child soldiers and the burning of villages means they are not only able to walk free, but also to continue terrorising the population without fear of repercussions."