The Abobo Women’s March and Witness P-190’s Tears

The exchange that was interrupted yesterday between Jean-Serges Gbougnon, a member of the Charles Blé Goudé defense team, and the second witness ended after a 15 minute question and answer session.

Emmanuel Altit, the Lead Counsel for Gbagbo tried to highlight the “counter-attack” mentioned the day before by the witness, including stone throwing from both sides. He asked the witness if Doukouré inhabitants were “stronger” than the provocateurs: “We were stronger…That’s why they called the police.”

Altit continued his examination by highlighting the strength of Doukouré inhabitants facing “a dozen” policemen. “Personally, I understand that they were afraid for their lives, don’t you think?” He asked the witness, who replied, ”No, they are not afraid.” The lawyer concluded by stating that in his view, there is also a doubt about the cause of the witness’s foot injury; there is no evidence that it was caused by a military grenade.

The prosecution asked their last questions, and then the witness from Yopougon left.

President Gbagbo or Mr. Gbagbo?

Before Witness P-190 was brought to the stand, the Legal Representative of Victims, Paolina Massidda, drew the judges’ attention to a point that visibly upset her. She said Emmanuel Altit introduced himself as the representative of “President Gbagbo,” while a decision of the chamber asked the defense not to use the title of “President” in communications between parties.

Altit replied that this way of naming people is part of Latin, French, and Ivorian culture where presidents keep their title for life when one refers to them. “You shall always be President Tarfusser” he says to the presiding judge, adding that not to use this title is “in our culture…humiliating…It is an insult to the Ivorian people and their freedom they exercised through choosing Gbagbo in 2000.”

Duly noted, the presiding judge closes the discussion for the time being. His decision will be made later. Meanwhile, it will be Mr. Gbagbo.

“Women were killed”

The third witness in the trial is a woman. “Madam,” interviewed by the Office of the Prosecutor, hails from Abobo. She was present at the women’s march on March 3, 2011. A supporter of Alassane Ouattara, she could not vote in the elections because she had no identity card. She chose to go to the march to show support for the man she wanted to vote for. It was a march, which according to her, was composed of women only because “men were afraid to go out, and we thought that nothing could happen to women.”

Accompanied by a neighbor named Fatoumata Coulibaly, whom she nicknamed “Mama,” she said she left her house around 9:00am to go to the march. Upon arrival at the Banco-Anador crossroads after a 40 minute walk from the station, “women danced, played drums, the people were happy.”

The prosecutor asked at what time the woman returned home from the demonstration. “I was at home around 11:00am,” replied the witness. Next question: “Why did you leave the Banco crossroads?” The answer: “Because women were killed.”

P-190 bursts into tears

She described what she saw during the attack: “The earth was shaking…something fell down…people collapsing…tanks…shooting.” The woman repeated several times that she was afraid. After the impact, she took refuge under a table on the side. She adds: “I had blood on my clothes, I did not even realize because I was so afraid…It was their blood that spurted over me…It was this bomb that injured them.” She said from her hiding place she saw a “pick-up” and “a tank” as well as a “cargo” driving past, heading for Adjamé.

When she left and was heading for home, she met an acquaintance and asked her where Mama was. The acquaintance had not seen her though. The witness then noticed blood on her clothes: “I had something that looked like pus…like a sheep after it has been slaughtered and had its head broken, it looked like that, brain.”

After throwing away her clothes on the way, she arrived home. “I cried” against a wall in the compound and “a neighbor who lived in the same compound told me to get into the house…Something happened to Mama.” The witness told about her feelings when she got the news: “Is it true what happened to Mama…so that person was dead, the people were shocked…and so she was dead.”

Beyond the witness’s robotic voice, the audience could hear sobs. The judge announced a break. The crying continued.

Madam witness must be spared

After lunch, the judge and members of the court exercise great caution in relation to the well-being of the witness. The judge asks the prosecutor “to be as delicate as possible.” He reminds the witness that the psychologist (sitting beside her but invisible to the public) is there.

Videos of women singing and dancing are shown. The witness does not recognize people but says she heard the chants sung by female Ouattara supporters. Then she recognized the scene: the Banco crossroads.

Jennifer Naouri, a member of Gbagbo’s defense team, questioned the witness next. She returned to the organization of the march and particularly the woman who persuaded them to go: Aminata Traoré, “a member of the RDR” who also organized meetings where the witness went and “where they danced.”

After a brief closed session concerning the specific route the woman followed to get to the march, Naouri focused her questions on the witness’s fear during the crisis by emphasizing that this fear was “ongoing” between the presidential election and her departure from Abobo in “late March.” The French lawyer also asked questions emphasizing that the witness was “disoriented” during the attack. However, time ran out, and the most sensitive topics for the witness are to be dealt with tomorrow.

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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.

 

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