The hearing on Friday, March 18, lasted less than one hour and 30 minutes. It was the last day of Sam-the-African’s testimony and the final hearing before a judicial recess of several weeks.
With the curtains open, the judges settled down, and the Presiding Judge of the chamber, Cuno Tarfusser, addressed the witness: “This morning should be the last stretch to run for you in principle. And for us too.”
Eric MacDonald, the lead prosecutor, made a promise: his re-examination, which he started yesterday, will be the shortest possible. He first had questions about the march on the RTI but quickly turned to November 2004.
Regarding the bombing of the FANCI [Armed Forces of Côte d’Ivoire] in northern Côte d’Ivoire, Sam-the-African confirmed that it was probably “to retake the north of the country.” Regarding the bombing of the Ivorian army aircraft by the French army after the death of French soldiers and an American in Bouake, Sam said that the sequence of events took place “automatically.” MacDonald and Emmanuel Altit [Gbagbo’s lead defense lawyer] confirmed that these things happened on the same day.
MacDonald continued: “When the French air force destroyed Ivorian aircraft, how did the young patriots react?” Sam-the-African said that “all of Côte d’Ivoire was indignant.” He cited several times the [former French] President Jacques Chirac, naming him the person responsible for these events. The prosecutor wanted to know if this indignation was followed by calls from Ivoirians and especially appeals by Charles Blé Goude. “There were calls,” replied the witness.” But I do not remember what the COJEP [Pan-African Congress of Young Patriots] president said.” However, Sam-the-African confirmed that there were calls to go to the 43rd BIMA [French Marine Battalion]. It was at that time, he said, that the French army “bombed the civilian population.”
Back to the causes of the rebellion
Finally, MacDonald questioned Sam-the-African on what he said about northerners who were in rebellion. The witness had earlier said it was “Ivoirians who maybe felt frustrated.” MacDonald asked, “Why?” The witness gave his interpretation: “People who revolt and take up arms must have a reason for doing so…Their region is poorly developed or northerners were frustrated by certain behaviors or they felt like taking power.”
This was the end of the re-examination. MacDonald wished the witness “a good journey back home” and thanked him for his cooperation. The defense teams did the same.
At the end of the trial, Sam wants to get “to work in Africa to bring peace”
The Presiding Judge said: “Sir, we’ve come to the end of your testimony, and it is with great pleasure that I announce this to you. Thank you for your patience…You did a very good job in your testimony. We wish you a good and safe return”
Sam rose. He wanted to say something. “This is African tradition,” he explained to the court. “I am very happy and very proud to have come here,” he said before thanking all participants in the trial. “I am very proud because this has allowed me to remove a burden that was heavy on me…Maybe everybody would not agree with me…but I wanted to help the chamber to understand the truth, and I did all that I could do.” He added: “It is my wish that my country reconciles with itself to live in peace…From today on, I will start working in Africa to bring peace…Thank you and God bless you.”
After the witness left, the court discussed for a few minutes the future schedule. The judge also insisted on reminding the court why a lengthy recess is necessary. He explained that the ICC cannot have more than two trials at a time, and it was therefore agreed with the presiding judges of two other ongoing trials that there would be a pause in the Gbagbo / Blé Goudé trial. “This system is due to financial constraints on the court,” he justified.
The hearing was adjourned, and the curtains fell. Barring unforeseen circumstances, the trial will resume on Monday, May 9.
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.