This Monday, March 14, was the first day of Sam-the-African’s cross-examination. It was conducted by Emmanuel Altit, the French Counsel for Laurent Gbagbo, and focused on the rebellion.
Charles Blé Goudé wore a light blue boubou. This is the first time since the trial began that we saw Gbagbo’s co-accused wearing a typical African dress. This detail is not important, but it coincided with the beginning of the cross-examination of another individual wearing a boubou in the courtroom of the International Criminal Court (ICC): Sam-the-African.
Emmanuel Altit, the lead counsel for Laurent Gbagbo, recalled the words of Sam-the-African during questioning by the prosecution: “When you say military attacks, were these military attacks by the pro-Ouattara?” The witness replied, “Yes.” However, he later specified that he cannot say they were led by Ouattara himself.
Then the Gbagbo defense team asked the NACIP leader about Ibrahim Coulibaly a.k.a. IB. “He was a soldier who was one of the authors of the first coup against President Bédié,” says Sam-the-African. He added: “It was rumored people were saying…that he had staged the coup for President Alassane.”
Regarding the march on the RTI [state television], Altit asked the witness if the youth groups he mentioned were armed groups. “I was away from the organization,” Sam-the-African answered. “I was not with them, I cannot say anything about that,” he said, adding that, on the other hand, he knew that pro-RHDP [Rally of Houphouetists for Democracy and Peace] youths could not be dislodged from places such as Abobo, Treichville, or Kumasi. He specified that in Abobo, it was the Invisible Commando (led by IB) that was in command and that “FDS [Ivorian Defense and Security Forces] tanks that went to Abobo were bombed.”
Altit also wished to know whether the various rebel factions were fighting each other. Sam replied that he knew that it was after Laurent Gbagbo was captured that clashes occurred, especially because “IB would not lay down arms.” The witness said, “After April 11…IB still reigned supreme…Everyone had pledged allegiance to the new regime, except for IB…That’s why Republican Forces went to Abobo to dislodge him.”
Gbagbo was no longer suitable
Sam-the-African also explained his vision on why and how Gbagbo was deposed. “When an African president…is no longer the right man for the colonizer, he is removed,” he told the court. He added that if tomorrow Alassane Ouattara decided to have another currency than the CFA Franc, “he would immediately become the worst dictator in Africa.”
True to his discourse ruling out any division between pro-ADO and pro-Gbagbo, he said there was no “pro-Alassane and pro-Gbagbo, there are only Ivorians who are manipulated.” Insisting on this influence, Sam-the-African repeated later that “the UN weapons” were at the Golf Hotel. He also discussed TCI (Télé Côte d’Ivoire), which he considered as one way the international community compensated for the failure to capture RTI. He confirmed to Altit that it was a political television because in those times, “everything was political.”
People from the north, feeling frustrated, attacked the country
On the subject of reconciliation, witness P-44 insisted that, to have reconciliation, “Gbagbo allowed himself to be humiliated” when he went so far as to accept the Ouagadougou agreements and made “many sacrifices,” including “the rebels’ entry in the government.” Speaking of Ouagadougou, Altit also asked him if the rebellion’s rear base was really in neighboring Burkina Faso. He replied: “Yes, that’s it…All of Côte d’Ivoire knows this.”
When asked “who attacked Côte d’Ivoire?” Sam replied that “it was Ivorians, Northerners who felt frustrated.” He confirmed that those were the people who were called rebels. Finally, prompted to do so by Altit, Sam-the-African recalled his experience in Korhogo. He said that he was not present when there was fighting but that things happened there. Altit also showed the court a video of a woman who recounts her ordeal, how she was beaten and raped. Sam-the-African affirmed again that in Korhogo he too was afraid, but it was different from what this woman felt. He was afraid “of the violence of Ouattara militants.”
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.