The hearing on Wednesday saw the completion of Sam-the-African’s cross-examination by Laurent Gbagbo’s defense and the beginning of cross-examination by Charles Blé Goudé’s defense. The role of France was again discussed.
Sam-the-African was wrong. Therefore, when the hearing resumed, he wanted to correct something he had mentioned the day before: the “more than 80 dead” he had talked about were not people who were shot by the French army in November 2004, but people who had died in the bombing of President Laurent Gbagbo’s office in April 2011 (again French bombs). After this correction by the witness, cross-examination resumed.
The lead counsel for Laurent Gbagbo, Emmanuel Altit, asked Sam-the-African about a meeting with Desire Tagro, Gbagbo’s Interior Minister. Tagro allegedly told the witness, during the crisis, that Gbagbo should step down because the country was rife with rumors that the opponents wanted to “dislodge Gbagbo by all means.” However, Tagro, as well as the Defense Minister of the time whom he met later, told him that he was not to worry, that everything was under control.
Witness P-44 also returned to what happened after the African Union (AU) meeting in Addis Ababa in March 2011. At that time, he said, Gbagbo could have chosen to become Prime Minister. “I think that was the problem,” he said, referring to his previous statement that Gbagbo wanted to resign at that time but was prevented from doing so by the people around him. However, Sam-the-African added: “But he is a man, he feared for his life.”
France is still on the agenda
After a moment, the topic of “France” and the role of the international community were back on the table. Altit asked the witness: “How could France’s intervention exacerbate violence or even generate it?” Eric MacDonald, the lead prosecutor, objected that the witness had already answered, and he felt that the defense wanted to put France in the dock. In response to this objection, Altit stated that the relationship to France is “fundamental” and “essential on both military and political levels.”
Judge Cuno Tarfusser pointed out that this is not about “putting France or the European Union or the United Nations on trial” and that the witness “must talk about facts” and that there is no need to “go very deep into his own opinions.”
Gbagbo “is not a racist”
Andreas O’Shea, the Irish Counsel for Gbagbo, ended cross-examination by the defense of the former President of Côte d’Ivoire. This is where Sam-the-African repeated once again all the good he thinks of Gbagbo: a “generous” man, “very kind,” and “not a racist.” On this last point, the witness added that he considers that in Côte d’Ivoire, “there is no political ethnic group,” churches and mosques coexist everywhere, and one can find any ethnic group in any political party.
Then Charles Blé Goudé’s defense began its cross-examination. Geert-Jan Knoops, a Dutch lawyer, spoke first. However, before he started, Judge Tarfusser warned: things should move fast and the witness should not have to repeat what he has already said.
This cross-examination highlighted the term “guerrilla” before finally focusing on the famous barricades, which are an essential part of the Blé Goudé defense strategy. Knoops therefore examined the witness on this and insisted that these barricades had been in existence for a long time and originated in popular initiatives. “Each side put up roadblocks to protect itself” Sam-the-African said.
And regarding 2004 and the popular uprising, the witness says: “This has nothing to do with Gbagbo…We cannot let an army [the French army] from another country come to the President’s residence!”
The slogans? More festive than offensive
A video was also presented by Knoops. It showed Blé Goudé on France 24 in January 2011. In this excerpt, the “Patriotic Galaxy leader,” said, referring to Ouattara, that “dialogue is not his forte” and that with “Soro and Choi, they had a secret roadmap” to seize power.
Jean-Serges Bougnon, a counsel for Blé Goudé, was the last to speak in today’s cross-examination. He showed three videos of the group “Les Galliet:” two clips / songs for the Africa Cup of Nations (1992 and 2005), where singers cite the players of the national football team, and another video, already presented to the court, with the famous “there’s nothing in front, it’s an easy job” where Gbagbo supporters’ names are mentioned. This comparison aims to highlight the festive nature of the latter song, as the witness says once again, and he thinks this is merely “to amuse the gallery.”
Then, Judge Tarfusser ended the hearing for the day. Claver N’Dry, from the Blé Goudé defense team, concluded the day by requesting a private session. He needed to address an “urgent point.” It is not known what was discussed.
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.