Listening to radio broadcast on Court-related topics is one thing, but talking directly with ICC staff is quite another. The mere announcement of the ICC mission visiting Berbérati was already the talk of the town, so it was no surprise to see many community members waiting for us on the day of the arrival.
Berbérati is one of the four towns we were planning to visit during the three weeks long journey. These towns are on the list of locations where crimes have been allegedly committed in late 2013 and 2014, now part of the charges in the case of Alfred Yekatom and Patrice Ngaïssona. We started off in Bangui, the capital of Central African Republic, continuing to Boda and now, 600 kilometres further down the road, we were reaching Berbérati.
The tires of the first vehicles are brushing on the sandy road leading into town. First to welcome us is a group of young people casually drinking Kangoya (palm wine in Sango) by the road. Further on, local authorities, victims of serious crimes and advocates of justice await our arrival. A journalist of the community radio rides along the convoy, greeting us from a motorcycle. He is collecting the first information about our visit. Who were we meeting, and what the discussion topics were - he wanted to know.
The warm welcome we’ve received shows local hospitality but also the curiosity of people in Berbérati, about the Court and its procedures. The motivation is twofold: to understand the judicial process that involves them and learn how what they’ve been through will be shared with the world, outside the town borders.
The thirst for knowledge can be seen during information sessions, too. Many people attended, asking many, many questions. During the screening of the initial appearance of Messrs. Yekatom and Ngaïssona, we noticed people understand the judicial process. Although we had never been to Berbérati, the regular radio messages helped keep the local population informed.
After exchanging our goodbyes, we were back in the car, setting off for the next destination: the town of Carnot.