The Day He was Sworn In, Gbagbo’s Power was Illegal

Witness Joel N’Guessan Kouadio, Rally of Republicans (RDR) spokesman and a former minister in Laurent Gbagbo’s cabinet, today completed his testimony before the judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé trial. Here is a record of Thursday, June 30, and Friday, July 1, hearings.

“Up to now, I still live through the trauma of this event,” Joel Kouadio N’Guessan said to the court in response to Andreas O’Shea, Laurent Gbagbo’s British lawyer, who asked about April 8, 2011. On that day, the witness saw his four assistants killed by Major Seka Seka.

“I had to revisit the scene several times to get out of this trauma,” he said. “I do not wish even my worst enemy to live through this kind of situation.” He retold the events and explained that upon learning that they had just been arrested by Major Seka Seka, his staff told him they were “done for.” The witness said that Seka Seka was reputedly a leader of the death squads.

Justice is “above kinship”

N’Guessan testified he had been spared only because he was the uncle of Stéphane Kipré, Gbagbo’s son in-law. “He told Seka Seka to spare me,” he summarized. It was after the death of his employees that he was taken to where Simone Gbagbo was located before being moved elsewhere until the end of the battle of Abidjan.

Later, N’Guessan said that he came to the ICC to represent the men who worked for him: “If I’m here is for the nine orphans they left me, for the four widows they left…and I believe that justice is above kinship.” This last sentence obviously referred to the family relationship he has with Laurent Gbagbo through his nephew.

O’Shea finally asked about the autopsy reports of the four bodies. He cited the Ivorian magistrates in the Seka Seka case who said that the analyses “do not determine the cause of death.” The witness responded that “it was a time when bodies rotting after two or three days were burnt by the people,” and the lack of resources might be one of the reasons why their deaths were never revealed.

“Defending institutions”

Blé Goudé’s defense then questioned the witness. Jean-Serge Gbougnon, one of the “Street General”’s Ivorian lawyers, asked the witness, again referring to April 8, 2011: “Can we say that your nephew and the First Lady of the time [Simone Gbagbo] saved your life?”

“Yes, without them, maybe I would not be alive,” N’Guessan answered. The chronology of events was then discussed again as well as the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement.

On this last point, N’Dry Claver, another lawyer for Blé Goudé explained to the judges his goal as regards the witness: to show that since 2002, “there was a crisis in the defense of institutions and not a common plan.” The exchange between the two men, which scans several points of the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement and refers to several players in this agreement, highlighted the numerous and important differences of opinions.

“Stick to the facts…do not make insinuations” N’Guessan forcefully ordered N’Dry, adding that “facts are stubborn.”

“Don’t worry, we are here because we know that facts are stubborn,” N’Dry retorted, thus concluding a tense exchange.

There is no question of keeping Gbagbo under surveillance

On Friday, N’Dry continued in a calmer atmosphere, beginning his questioning with presenting a video of the Marcoussis Agreement. It showed, among other things, Louis-Andre Dacoury Tablé, an Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) founding member who joined the rebel cause in 2003, saying that the Marcoussis Agreement satisfied his movement “80 to 85 percent,” but that they will remain “vigilant.” However, according to N’Guessan, “All those who signed the Marcoussis Agreement were even 100 percent satisfied,” and there was no question of keeping President Gbagbo under surveillance but rather of “making sure that the Marcoussis Agreement is implemented.”

Finally, invited by the prosecution to comment on the announcement of results of the 2010 election, N’Guessan repeated what he had said, “The day he was sworn in, Gbagbo’s power was illegal…this was sheer power usurping…he was keen on holding onto power at all costs and we know what this resulted in.” This, of course, was the opposite of what the defense said.

When he was dismissed, the witness thanked the chamber because, according to him, “the establishment of truth and justice should be the basis of all political action.” After the RDR spokesman left, Presiding Judge Cuno Tarfusser announced that the next witness would enjoy protective measures. For the audience, the immediate effect of this announcement meant that there would be no public trial before complete verification of statements made by the witness. This was an additional protective measure that was not universally acclaimed either in court or in Côte d’Ivoire.

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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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