For Witness N’Guessan, the Words “Rebel” and “Warlord” Should be Avoided

Today Laurent Gbagbo’s defense finished questioning Joel Kouadio N’Guessan the Rally of Republicans (RDR) spokesman who has come to testify before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé trial. The examination came back to the statements made by the witness in previous days but was tenser.

Witness N’Guessan did not want to hear the term “rebels.” This was how witness P-48‘s third day of hearing began. Facing Gbagbo’s lawyer Emmanuel Altit, N’Guessan said that this term is pejorative. He asked the defense to make an effort not to utter it. He did the same with the term “warlord,” which he wished to be replaced by “area commander.”

The day was punctuated by sometimes offensive answers from the witness who did not hesitate to occasionally give his opinion. He was repeatedly called to order like the day before.

“Remove” Gbagbo

Altit asked him about the battle of Abidjan. He questioned him about the role of France, and first the assertion he made yesterday that “France, under a UN mandate, was tasked to remove him [Gbagbo].”

“How was this task carried out?” Altit asked. “The UN asked France to restore constitutional legality,” retorted the witness, adding: “The objective was to destroy the weapons that were used by elements loyal to Laurent Gbagbo in order to be able to shoot the civilians.”

Then the witness was briefly questioned about his links with President Gbagbo. N’Guessan has a nephew who married one of Gbagbo’s daughters, Marie-Laurence Gbagbo.

Topics followed each other, and Altit went back to the 2004 march, organized by the “G7” (a grouping of parties or movements seeking application of the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement). Altit asked the witness if he found it normal that armed movements or movements affiliated with armed parties should have participated in the march. This was something the witness denied. “The New Forces in Abidjan were not armed,” he said. He added that the operation in question could never start because “from 6 or 7 am, the helicopters had already started firing [at demonstrators].”

“We win or we win”

Regarding the 2003 Linas-Marcoussis Agreement, the witness was questioned again about the role of France. We learned that the witness had to pay for his plane ticket to go to Marcoussis, but he was reimbursed via the Embassy of France. “I can imagine that it was France who paid for the plane tickets for everyone,” he said.

Altit finally wanted the witness to come back to his statement that Gbagbo’s campaign slogan “we win or we win” meant “what it meant…i.e. whatever happens, we’ll win.”

“Have you heard this somewhere else?” Altit asked. The witness said he could not remember. Antoinette Allany’s song was played. Altit then criticized the witness for saying “not entirely accurate” things, to which the witness responded: “I’m here to talk about a tragedy that my country experienced, with slogans used by politicians who created problems!” Presiding Judge Cuno Tarfusser pointed out that this is “the fifth time” the court hears this song. “We’ll eventually know it by heart,” he said, amused.

Finally, Andreas O’Shea, Gbagbo’s British lawyer, concluded the day by questioning the witness on Marcoussis. “Have you heard that Chirac and de Villepin [former French President’s former Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister] presented the Marcoussis Agreement to Laurent Gbagbo as a fait accompli?” the lawyer asked. The witness said he had heard rumors of the French Prime Minister’s threats against Gbagbo.

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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.

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