International Justice Monitor

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The Republican Guard Commander Talks About the Battle of Abidjan

This is the last day of interrogation for Colonel Edouard Kouaho Amichia. This Monday, September 26, the Republican Guard Commander answered questions from Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé’s defense lawyers. Topics discussed included the battle of Abidjan and the composition of the Ivorian army before and after the post-election crisis.

This Monday at the International Criminal Court (ICC), the battle of Abidjan held the attention of Laurent Gbagbo’s defense. Emmanuel Altit, the lead counsel for the accused, wanted to know more about the protagonists in this event, which occurred in the second half of March 2011.

Colonel Edouard Kouaho Amichia, who at the time led Group No. 1 of the Republican Guard, said that the Defense and Security Forces were then confronting “unidentified armed groups.” Among these were “rebels,” the “Invisible Commando,” and “RHDP [Rally of Houphouetists for Democracy and Peace] youths,” who attacked police stations.

The attack on the barracks and the fighting leading to Gbagbo’s arrest                                           

The defense then turned to the attack against the Treichville barracks, the base of Group No. 1 of the Republican Guard. “We were bombed” on the night of April 4 to 5, the witness said. He went on: “Our defense and combat resources were crippled…Thank God, no one died.”

According to the witness, this was an aerial attack by aircraft belonging to the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) and the French Licorne force.

“So the United Nations and Licorne force took part in the battle of Abidjan?” Emmanuel Altit asked.

“Correct,” replied the witness, adding that it was initially “a battle between Ivoirians.”

The Commander also explained that other barracks were bombed that day. After April 5, “all units were unable to fight,” he said.

Continuing his narrative, the Republican Guard Commander then mentioned the battles that led to the arrest of Laurent Gbagbo. “The rebel forces” that had “heavy weapons” were involved in the fighting, he said. The witness added that he later learned that they had received support from Licorne forces.

The defense then tried to find out what had become of the Republican Guard elements that protected the President’s Residence in Cocody after their defeat. In the words of the witness, some of these elements went into exile, others answered Guillaume Soro’s call to join the barracks and were “assigned to other military units.”

Assignments and appointments of officers

Regarding assignments, the defense wanted to know more, including the appointment of officers to key positions. There was mention of Lieutenant Colonel Issiaka Ouattara, a.k.a. Wattao, currently Commander of the Republican Guard.

“Did he have a political or military role between 2002 and 2010?” Laurent Gbagbo’s lawyer asked.

According to the witness, he was the number two of the New Forces at the time and in charge of securing an area between Treichville and the southern border during the battle of Abidjan.

Charles Blé Goudé’s defense focused on the ethnic composition of the Ivorian armed forces before and after the crisis. “Are the Kru and Akan groups culturally and geographically different?” asked Seri Zokou, one of the counsels for the accused, before being interrupted by the presiding judge.

“He is not an ethnologist, he is a military man. Why should he respond to this kind of questions?” asked the judge.

The indictment by the Office of the Prosecutor “contains important information that does not correspond with the sociological data of Côte d’Ivoire, i.e. those who composed the loyalists were mostly from Bete and related ethnic groups,” explained Claver N’Dry, another member of Blé Goudé defense team. “We want to present the reality of the Ivorian army’s composition,” he justified.

Thus, the defense sought to understand why the witness blamed his sidelining during the crisis on ethnic considerations, especially since many of the Appolo’s (the Colonel’s ethnic group), supported Laurent Gbagbo.

“It was an epiphenomenon,” justified the witness. “Was your appointment [as Group No.1 Commander in 2004] an honor?” Zokou asked.

“Yes, it was an honor done to me,” the witness replied.

Before he left the courtroom, he insisted on clarifying a point regarding his appointment as Commander of the Republican Guard following the crisis. “Many things have been said…if I was appointed to this post it was because the President recruited me on the strength of my CV,” he explained, adding that it was “God’s will.”

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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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