Abobo Bombing: the Account of a Mother Who Never Found Her Son’s Body

On Monday, February 15, the examination of a witness to the Abobo market bombing was completed. This hearing marked the end of the first part of the Gbagbo and Blé Goudé trial, which went into recess and resumes on March 3.

“Today I ask you to tell the court about the day your child died.” With these words, Melissa Pack, a lawyer from the Office of the Prosecutor, began her examination of Witness P-536.

The witness, a woman, lost her son on March 17, 2011 in Abobo after one of these “booms” the witness said she heard several times. That day, she went to pick up her son at his father’s house in the Abobo Avocatier neighborhood. After she picked up her son, she began her return journey on foot with a group of people walking towards her neighborhood. Suddenly, as they were near the Main Market, “there was a noise, a ‘boom’ and then we got injured,” she told the court.

“I was injured, there was a lot of blood coming out of my stomach, and I also received injuries to my ribs…then I opened my eyes…There were five of us still alive and ten dead,” said the young woman, who was 20 at the time these events took place. She says she was later told that this “boom” was in fact a shell.

She passed out and then soon regained consciousness and called her son. She recounts having seen him “with his nose cut” and “his hand…injured.” Once she got close to him, the child only uttered one word “mom” before succumbing to his injuries. The mother, wounded and bleeding profusely, fainted.

P-536 has not yet buried her son

The prosecution lawyer showed photographs to the court. She asked, “Do you remember showing a picture of your son to [ICC] investigators…A photo of your dead son?” The witness soberly responded, “Yes.” The photographs were taken at the scene of the incident.

The woman then explained she also heard “boom” at the Main Market Hospital. She said she was hurt “everywhere” and was X-rayed. “There were bullets in my belly. Four,” she said. Then “white women from the Red Cross” took care of her and took her to the operating room. Her niece told her she woke up a week later.

“Do you still suffer from physical pain?” asked the prosecution attorney. “My stomach and my foot,” she answered. She said that since then she has tried to work again, but she “fell ill” every time because of the pain that prevented her from walking.

Melissa Pack had more questions to ask. The Representative of Victims then spoke for five minutes to pose two simple questions: “Were you able to recover the body of your child?” And “Have you been able to bury him?” The witness’s answer was simple:” No. ”

Tarfusser is keeping a close watch

Next was the turn of Andreas O’Shea, a member of the Gbagbo defense team: “Hello Mrs. Witness…I represent President Laurent Gbagbo.” Judge Tarfusser abruptly interrupts him: “You were not here on Friday…for everything to be fair it’s either Mr. Gbagbo or Mr. Laurent Gbagbo.” The forbidden word was pronounced. This is a reminder that the decision of “no President Gbagbo during the trial” will be implemented.

There are not many lessons learned from the cross-examination by Gbagbo’s defense, but certain points shed light on the woman’s story (and the defense’s strategy).

We learned, among other things, that she is Christian. She knew there was gunfire in Abobo, but she did not witness it. Neither had she heard of the invisible commando.

The woman once again answered questions about the death of her son, whom she saw die “before her own eyes” after he uttered a last word: “mom.” Then O’Shea starts asking another question about the circumstances of his death, but the judge found the lawyer’s insistence too heavy: “I think that’s enough for the death of the child.”

Blé Goudé defense anticipates the judicial recess

O’Shea also chose at some point to talk to the court but without the witness hearing. He referred to the hospital discharge report presented as an item of evidence. According to him, this document is forged. “Not by the witness,” he specifies though.

“Do you know IB?” O’Shea finally asked her. “Not personally…But people said IB was dangerous… he had killed many people.” It is assumed that this name will be heard again sooner or later.

The floor was finally given to the Blé Goudé defense team, but they decided not to proceed with their cross-examination. Their questions had already been asked.

The hearing ends and a judicial recess begins. The resumption of the trial is scheduled for March 3.


Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé are charged with four counts of crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, and other inhumane acts, or – in the alternative – attempted murder and persecution. The accused allegedly committed these crimes during post-electoral violence in Côte d’Ivoire between December 16, 2010 and April 12, 2011.

This summary comes from Ivoire Justice , a project of Radio Netherlands Worldwide(RNW), which offers monitoring and commentary on the ICC’s proceedings arising from the post-election violence that occurred in Cote d’Ivoire in 2010-2011. It has been translated into English for use on International Justice Monitor.