Today, the witness in the trial of Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé enjoyed protective measures, so it was with his face blurred and his voice distorted that P-238, a military man, responded to questions from the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The ground-to-air artillery battalion (BASA) was the focus of discussions on Tuesday, September 27. The witness was questioned at length about the missions, organization, and hierarchy of this army unit during the post-election crisis. They talked about his Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Dadi, “a strong, reliable man, of course, a strong leader who loved to have the job done,” in the words of the witness.
“It was not possible to show him you disagreed with him,” P-238 added, responding to questions from the lawyer from the prosecution, “because he was Dadi. Those who did not listen to him could face punishment and insults, further explained the witness, adding that “there were many spies” and that “one had to hold one’s tongue.”
As for relations between Colonel Dadi and the other commanding officers of the armed forces, they were “appalling,” said the witness. For example, the head of the unit considered General Detto Letto, his superior, as “useless.” However, according to P-238, Colonel Dadi had good relations with some officers, such as Captain Zadi of the 1st Paracommando Battalion (PCO) or General Dogbo Blé, the Republican Guard Commander. The BASA sometimes conducted joint operations with this unit at the time, especially presidential security missions, when the Head of State traveled.
Vehicles offered by Laurent Gbagbo’s second wife, after the second round of the elections
Regarding the BASA organization, the debate was then on the weapons it had during the post-election crisis, substantial weaponry according to the witness, who cites multiple rocket launchers and 120 mm mortars. “After the second round, we received 21 more vehicles,” P-238 explained, “the commanding officer said it was a present from the President’s second wife [Nady Bamba].”
The prosecutor wanted to know whether BASA weapons were checked by the United Nations mission. If they came unexpectedly, Colonel Dadi ordered his elements to “block them outside the camp,” just to have the time to “hide the ammunition,” the witness said.
Another topic discussed today was the military vote in the presidential election. “Did anyone try to influence you to vote for one or another of the candidates?” lead prosecutor Eric MacDonald asked.
“We had no choice, we were told for whom to vote,” said the witness, telling it as it happened. Before the second round, all ground force elements were summoned by General Philippe Mangou, the former Chief of Staff to the former Akouédo Camp. He spoke to the soldiers, urging them to “make the right choice” and “show [their] commitment to the President through the ballot box by voting massively.” A message relayed repeatedly by Colonel Dadi and his men and accompanied by warnings. “To keep our jobs, we had to vote for the President [Laurent Gbagbo],” P-238 said.
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.