In the second day of his testimony, Sam-the-African pointed to the position of the international community during the post-election crisis in Côte d’Ivoire, which he thought was a violation of the sovereignty of Côte d’Ivoire. Eric MacDonald also asked him about how the Patriotic Galaxy was organized.
“Closed” and “private” were the keywords of morning. As soon as the hearing opened, the lawyer of the current witness, known as Sam-the-African, requested a closed session. With curtains drawn, members of the public were invited to come back an hour later. However, when the hearing resumed, lead prosecutor, Eric MacDonald requested another closed session, this time private. We could just see that the parties spoke in turn and the witness looked to the presiding judge, Cuno Tarfusser. We learned that it was about a “serious matter” concerning the witness himself.
“We set fire to our country”
Finally, at 11:30, the hearing opened to the public. At the request of the prosecutor, Sam-the-African, with his eyes marked by fatigue, once more told about the mood that prevailed in the 2010 election. “The tension was getting higher,” said the witness, who was in Korhogo for both rounds of the election. He testified that in the second round, there were reports of possible attacks against members of Laurent Gbagbo’s campaign team to which he belonged. “We had to leave,” he summarized.
Then, MacDonald asked about the announcement of the election results. A video of the announcement of the provisional results at the headquarters of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) was presented to the court. It showed Bamba Yacouba and Damana Pickass, respectively spokesperson of the IEC and representative of the presidential majority fighting over the results sheets. According to Sam-the-African, the impact of these images, broadcast on both the RTI (state television) and on international news channels, was “severe for the country” and destroyed the trust of both sides in the Constitutional Council and the IEC.
He then told of his joy at the announcement of his candidate’s victory and his visit to the Presidential Palace to attend the swearing in of Gbagbo. At the same time, he learned that Alassane Ouattara was going to have his swearing-in ceremony. That, he said, was when he realized that “the fire had been set to our country.”
The witness then took the opportunity to make a personal mini-speech that advocated peace and aimed at “silencing rumors.” He stated: “There are no pro-Gbagbo and pro-Alassane dead…Côte d’Ivoire belongs to all Ivorians, this is our motherland…I also want to say that I am not a bribed witness…I’ve always been asked to tell the truth”
In rebellion for sovereignty
After the prosecution showed a video of the swearing-in of Laurent Gbagbo, where we hear the accused talk about democratic values and the importance of the sovereignty of Côte d’Ivoire, MacDonald asks the witness what Gbagbo means by “foreign interference.” Sam-the-African explained that in his opinion, the UN, ECOWAS, France, and the African Union wanted to undermine the sovereignty of his country. “The man I know [Laurent Gbagbo] has always fought for the total sovereignty of Côte d’Ivoire…and I think that’s why today he finds himself here,” said the witness facing the judges. He said that the international community, led by France, had urged Gbagbo to hold elections despite the difficult environment. “It was a trap for President Laurent Gbagbo and he fell into it,” he summarized.
Eric MacDonald finally came to the Patriotic Galaxy and apparently wanted to show that it was against the international community. Sam-the-African then confirmed that indeed “it was disgusting, we could not accept [what the international community was saying].” He stated that sovereignty resided in the word of the Constitutional Council and that challenging it was in keeping with “Sarkozy’s France who did not want Laurent Gbagbo’s regime in Côte d’Ivoire.”
The Patriotic Galaxy, a “very well organized” gathering
Sam-the-African did agree with the Patriotic Galaxy’s contention that there was a sovereignty issue, but he explained that he quickly realized, given the strong support in favor of Ouattara, that “we could not go to war.” The witness said, “Young Ivorian patriots did not accept that.”
At the request of MacDonald, the witness then explained that the Patriotic Galaxy was “very well organized” with “people in charge of communication” and that “everyone had well-defined roles.” He added that for leaders’ meetings, communication was by phone via SMS signed “COJEP.”
Finally, the lead prosecutor asked the witness what he knew of the situation at the Golf Hotel, where Ouattara was. Sam-the-African explained that people called the hotel “the smallest republic in the world,” especially because it was as if under embargo, as it was blocked by FDS [Ivoirian Defense and Security Forces] positioned nearby. Inside Golf Hotel, were “rebels…quite a few of them.” The witness believed that they arrived there “transported by UN tanks.”
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.