Trial resumed after several days of break. The new witness is a former member of the Ivorian Popular Front Youth Movement (JFPI), but we do not know any more about him because his identity was hidden. As soon as the witness walked in, Presiding Judge Cuno Tarfusser listed all the security measures provided for him. In very good French but with a robotic voice, the witness briefly explained why he thinks these measures are necessary.
From marches to machetes
The examination was conducted by Eric MacDonald, the lead lawyer for the prosecution. There were many closed sessions, but we know the interrogation focused on the links between the various youth movements close to Laurent Gbagbo. FESCI (Student Federation of Côte d’Ivoire), COJEP (Congress of Young Patriots), and JFPI were mentioned several times.
First, regarding FESCI, the witness said what he thinks of how the union had changed and he considered this to be “an open secret.” He explained, “The way we fought evolved over time and space…We went from strikes, marches, and so on, to clubs and then we got to machetes and sometimes weapons such as pistols.”
According to the witness, if the primary purpose of the union was “to improve students’ living conditions,” it finally evolved into a movement to “overthrow the PDCI.” He also highlighted the links between the movement and the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI). Regarding COJEP, his analysis was that the movement wanted to highlight the division between “nationalist” politicians on the one hand and politicians “in the pay of foreigners, the West” on the other hand.
“Radicalizing” after the coup
The witness said the massive patriotic youth demonstrations started in 2002. This was when the Young Patriots Alliance for National Revival (AJSN) was created. MacDonald then questioned the witness about a photo of a demonstration that took place on November 2, 2002 in Abidjan.
MacDonald showed the photo and read what he saw on the sign held by a protester: “I am xenophobic, so what?” He then began to ask the witness about “xenophobic discourse” when he was interrupted sharply by Charles Blé Goudé’s lawyer, Jean-Serge Gbougnon.
“I see no xenophobic discourse here. This is a comment!” said Gbougnon.
MacDonald restated his question: “Was this a harmless or recurrent phenomenon?” The witness responded, “It reminds me of the dynamics that began after the 1999 coup…after that there was some radicalization and more speeches against foreigners.”
The defense continued to make objections to many of MacDonald’s questions that it considered comments. In the face of this situation, JudgeTarfusser told MacDonald that in fact he is not following his guidelines.
“Slogans to be followed”
The witness then reviewed the evolution of youth movements. He spoke about some radicalization from 2002 in the agoras and parliaments [youth gatherings for debate], but also added that their numbers decreased from 2007 after the Ouagadougou Accords. However, from 2010 there was “remobilization” for elections.
The witness then said that the Sorbonne parliament, in the Plateau in Abidjan, was where patriotic youth leaders were between noon and 2:00pm to decipher the news and then define what would be said in other parliaments. “Were people free to say what they wanted in the parliaments?” asked MacDonald. “Before 2002, you could hear people from different political persuasions speak…after 2002…there was some sort of slogan to be followed.”
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.