According to Sam-the-African, during the crisis, Simone Gbagbo had more and more influence in the President’s office, so much so that she allegedly prevented Laurent Gbagbo from delivering a speech to the nation in March 2011. This is an account of the March 10, 2016 hearing.
There was no way out. Sam-the-African analyzed the situation during the post-election crisis: “In the interest of the nation…my solution was that we should withdraw, that was what I wished,” he explained to the court.
When asked by lead prosecutor Eric MacDonald whether Gbagbo wanted to resign in March 2011, the witness said that on March 11 that year, Gbagbo was to address the nation. “A statement from the President’s office said that Gbagbo was to address the nation at 5pm,” he said. The same day, the witness said he met a presidential adviser in a hallway who confirmed that “the President will make a decision.”
Simone Gbagbo more influential than ever
However, the expected announcement did not take place, and in Sam-the-African’s opinion, it was Simone Gbagbo, the President’s wife, who was responsible for this obstruction. “Everything had to go through her” he explained. He added: “She was the one who gave her OK…It was as if there was a coup against the President…Until today, the nation still wants to know what speech the President wanted to deliver. ”
At the hearing, MacDonald also asked Sam-the-African about the National Resistance Congress for Democracy (CNRD) and the various meetings of members of the Patriotic Galaxy in the residence of the Head of State. Regarding the CNRD, Sam-the-African said that here again, Simone Gbagbo was influential. In fact he received convening notices sent “on behalf of the First Lady, Mrs. Ehivet Gbagbo.”
At a meeting with the CNRD, Sam-the-African said he had his voice heard, and it was different from the voice of Simone Gbagbo, who headed the CNRD. He considered that the United Nations ban on the Gbagbo camp flying over the territory prevented his camp from winning, “Licorne, the UN could fly…They could control FDS positions …that meant we had lost.”
“The time for grigris is past”
Then the lead prosecutor presented to the court several elements of evidence, first the record of entries and departures of the President’s residence, then Simone Gbagbo’s personal diary, a diary taken directly from the First Lady’s room. Among these elements was, among others, the January 15, 2011 meeting at the Palace of Culture in Treichville.
A video of this meeting, showing Simone Gbagbo making a speech, was viewed by the court. “The time for grigris is past,” exclaimed the erstwhile First Lady facing a crowd of pro-Gbagbo supporters. “Every time we hit them, it’s the grigris we find,” she added, before indicating that Gbagbo supporters should no longer ally themselves with grigris and fetishes. Her speech also appeared to give instructions on how to “recover the entire Ivorian territory.” She said, “Clean the forests, clean the fields, reclaim our cocoa fields…which are looted.”
Other videos were presented by the prosecution. They recounted the last moments of the Gbagbo regime, particularly through extracts from RTI (state television) news bulletins. On the screen appeared, among others, Charles Blé Goudé (repeatedly), Genevieve Bro Grebe, Zéguen Toure Serges Kassy, and Alain Pickass. All were talking on TV or are simply shown.
The videos showed calls to fight or to resist. Blé Goudé called for enrollment in the FDS. As for Pickass, he said that this is a fight between David and Goliath, but that “David’s victory is not far.” After viewing the videos, Sam-the-African explained why everyone called for gathering at Gbagbo’s residence. According to him, there had to be “human shields” at the residence, in addition to the men in arms. “We were at war,” he repeated.
The hunt for Gbagbo supporters
After the arrest of Gbagbo [on April 11, 2011], Sam-the-African said he fled because “there was a manhunt against all those who were pro-Gbagbo.” He then went home and hid for a week before taking refuge with neighbors. He finally called an acquaintance from the Ouattara camp then after a number of phone calls, men sent by Issiaka Ouattara, a.k.a. Wattao, finally came to protect him. He then concluded his story: “This was how my life was saved, Mr. Prosecutor.”
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.