Rabat – During an election ceremony held last Friday in Casablanca, Patrice Edouard Ngaissona, president of CAR’s (Central African Republic) football federation, and former chief of the anti-Balaka militia, was elected to CAF’s executive board.
The Central African official is said to have links with the anti-Balaka, a militia group that has been accused of numerous atrocities, including killings and human rights abuses, especially against CAR’s Muslims.
The militia is also associated with the death of Moroccan Blue Helmets in 2017, as a spiral of violent attacks targeted CAR’ Muslim community.
“Today, Morocco has become a blessed land for me”, Mr. Ngaissona told the press after his election.
With 30 voices in favor of his candidacy, the Center African football chief is set to be the representative of Central Africa, in replacement of the Gabonese Pierre Alain Moungeuigui who, with just 23 voices on Friday, failed to renew his mandate.
The Anti-Balaka, meaning “machete-proof “or “invincible” in Sango, CAR’s most spoken local language, presented themselves as the defenders of the country’s Christians and a reaction to the machetes used by the Seleka rebels.
The militia has also been associated with massive terror and numerous exactions under President François Bozizé under whom Mr. Ngaissona briefly serves as Minister of Sports, and is accused of partaking in the wave of violence that saw thousands of people flee CAR in 2013.
Al Wihda, a human rights organization based in Bangui, the country’s capital, has declared being “alarmed” by the prospects of a “former Anti-Balaka political coordinator” being elected to a prominent seat in the continent’s football decision-making entity.
In 2015, Mr. Ngaissona was barred from running in his country’s presidential election over concerns regarding his role in the 2013 civil strife.
But when asked about his role in the 2013 violence, Mr. Ngaissona replied: “If these allegations were true, I would not be here today”, explaining that he would not like “to mix football with politics.”
“Everything I’ve done has been for the good of my country”, he added.
Despite all the controversy surrounding Mr. Ngaissona’s pats, CAF’s executive committee approved his candidacy in January, with a CAF spokesman telling the press that, in such matters, the organization only “respects strict statutory criteria”, further saying that CAF does not have an ethical committee.