After the last questions from the prosecution, Laurent Gbagbo’s defense took over to interview Colonel Edouard Kouaho Amichia , the current Commander of the Republican Guard. The defense objective was to evaluate if the sidelining of the witness during the post-election crisis could be read through other prisms than ethnicity.
The end of the Ivorian post-election crisis was the focus of discussions on Friday, September 23, at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Before giving the floor to Laurent Gbagbo’s defense, the prosecution asked their last questions to the Commander of the Republican Guard, who headed this unit’s Group No. 1 at the time of the events
Colonel Edouard Kouaho Amichia explained that he stayed in office “until the end,” when he was ordered by his superiors to leave the Treichville Camp on April 5, 2011, the day after the barracks were bombed. The Commander was eventually sent to the Locodjro naval base where he saw about 400 young men in civilian clothes, some armed, “flock to an assembly point.” After a night there, the Colonel went to his home to stay there “in prayer” for a few days, until Guillaume Soro asked the armed forces to move back to the barracks.
Following these events, the witness said he spoke to the people of Treichville. In the spirit of reconciliation, the Colonel apologized “for all that had been done by the Republican Guard.”
“Many faux pas were committed by my elements,” he justified, referring to young demonstrators regularly beaten up in Treichville barracks. In early May 2011, Colonel Kouaho Amichia was finally informed by his superiors that he would now occupy the position of Acting Commander of the Republican Guard. Being in this position, the witness was able to attend the “decontamination” of an ammunition reserve in the basement of the presidential palace. A reserve that “was under the exclusive authority of Dogbo Blé,” according to him and that contained ammunition for small, semi collective arms and mortars.
Reacting to the prosecution’s questions, the defense then asked the witness about his current powers and how much leeway he has as the Republican Guard Commander. “Do you expect total loyalty and discipline today? “asked Andreas O’Shea, one of Gbagbo’s lawyers. “Yes, as long as we remain in the Republican Guard’s mission,” the witness replied.
Then the defense returned to facts mentioned yesterday, including the training of recruits, of which the Colonel had not been informed. The defense lawyer therefore investigated whether the witness had shown signs of insubordination to his superior, General Dogbo Blé, that would have resulted in his sidelining. O’Shea referred in particular to a speech by the Commander to his troops following a visit to his superior. O’Shea wondered if the witness contradicted what Dogbo Blé said.
Interrupted by the Court, the lawyer justified himself: “The prosecution constantly used the argument of ethnicity, I try to extend this framework and provide further explanation,” argued O’Shea, before the Presiding Judge cut in, “Do not do it through his feelings but with facts.”
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.