Alleged CAR militia leaders reject ICC charges

The World
Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona is seen only from the head up, blocked mostly by ICC judges standing in the nearground.

The former chief of Central African Republic's soccer federation Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona sits during his initial appearance before the judges of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the Netherlands, Jan. 2019.

Koen Van Well/Pool photo via AP

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Two suspected militia leaders from the Central African Republic, Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona and Alfred Yekatom, on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to multiple counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for widespread attacks on Muslims in their first appearance at  the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, in the Netherlands.

Ngaïssona, 53, a former African soccer official and Yekatom, 46, also known as “Rambo,” are accused of crimes as senior leaders of a predominantly Christian militia, the anti-Balaka. They commited atrocities against Muslim civilians in their campaign to restore power to the country’s ousted president in 2013 and 2014.

Prosecutors allege that Ngaïssona helped mobilize, arm and finance diverse groups into the anti-Balaka movement.

The trial at the ICC, which prosecutors said will bring more than 150 witnesses and experts to testify, started as the African nation is undergoing internal violence and a dire humanitarian crisis. The constitutional court rejected former President François Bozizé’s candidacy for December’s presidential election, which was won by Faustin-Archange Touadéra.

What The World is following

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday that an independent commission, shaped like the 9/11 Commission on the 2001 terrorist attacks in the US, will further investigate the deadly Jan. 6. insurrection on the US Capitol. John Farmer, senior counsel and team leader on the 9/11 Commission, told The World's host Marco Werman (🎧) that establishing the basic facts and timeline is necessary in the current political climate in the US.

"I think what's missing in the country right now is a common baseline, understanding even how our government is supposed to operate,” Farmer said. “If we have a large segment of the population that does not understand how our government is supposed to work, we're in big trouble. Unlike other nations, we're not defined by ethnicity or by a religious faith. We're defined by a common understanding of what our government is about. And that's been eroded seriously over the last few years. And that needs to be restored. And I think a commission like this is one way to restore that.”

And, according to a new poll as part of the “State of Hate: Far-right extremism in Europe” report released on Tuesday, “[a]t least a quarter of Europeans have negative feelings toward Muslims, almost a third have hostile views towards immigrants generally and more than a third have negative views of Roma people.”  Listen to The World’s broadcast on Tuesday for more on the  findings of this report in an interview with Joe Mulhall, one of the editors of the survey, which interviewed 12,000 people across eight European countries.

From The World

South Africa changes course on vaccine rollout after disappointing study

South Africa had a plan for the first phase of its COVID-19 vaccine rollout after receiving a million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. But the government announced it would temporarily halt the rollout after a study found that it was not effective against mild and moderate cases of the 501Y.V2 variant identified in South Africa in November 2020.

Now, South Africa has secured 9 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine instead, which researchers have said is effective against moderate and severe forms of the coronavirus new variants.

Germany’s LGBTQ actors come out publicly en masse to fight discrimination

On the front page of Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin, one of Germany's largest publications, 185 actors have come out as members of the LGBTQ community. The cover is filled with pictures and names of the actors, along with the message: “We are here.”

In a movement called #ActOut, actors are advocating for LGBTQ representation on-screen and behind-the-scenes in Germany’s media productions.

Bright spot

Ahead of the recent Tet holiday in Vietnam marking the beginning of the Lunar New Year, US Ambassador Daniel Kritenbrink took a different approach to diplomatic relations — releasing a rap video with Vietnamese musician Wowy. With lyrics like, “I’m from Nebraska, I’m not a big-city boy/Then three years ago, I moved to Hanoi,” maybe Krittenbrink has a future in music parallel to his diplomatic career ... maybe. 

In case you missed it

Listen: Chinese staying put for this year's Lunar New Year

A Chinese woman reacts as she holds a giant replica of candy haw, a popular Beijing snack, at a street stall near Wangfujing on the fourth day of the Lunar Chinese New Year in Beijing on Feb. 15, 2021.

A Chinese woman reacts as she holds a giant replica of candy haw, a popular Beijing snack, at a street stall near Wangfujing on the fourth day of the Lunar Chinese New Year in Beijing on Feb. 15, 2021.


Ng Han Guan/AP

China is successfully controlling the spread of COVID-19 infections. But people there aren’t taking chances this Chinese New Year — they’re staying put. Also, over the weekend, former US President Donald Trump was acquitted in the Senate impeachment trial. However, some lawmakers are now calling for further investigation into the events of the Capitol breach — including creating a 9/11 style commission. And, we get an update on vaccine distribution in Latin America.

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