The Witness Deserted the Army Because His Life was Under Threat

During cross-examination by Laurent Gbagbo’s and Charles Blé Goudé’s defense on Tuesday, the witness, a former head of the Abobo Commando Camp, elaborated on his desertion and his stay in the Golf Hotel.

The defense lawyers went back to the witness’s career and military experience. Gbagbo’s lead defense lawyer, Emmanual Altit, took over to question Barthélémy Obiénéré Ouattara. Altit first interviewed the captain on his experience in Danané, a city in the West of the country where the witness was stationed for several months in 2002. The main subject discussed was the armed groups in the region at the time.

The witness said he fought the Ivorian Popular Movement for the Far West (MPIGO) force composed of Liberians. “We were unable to hold the city,” he acknowledged. However, it was impossible for the captain to know whether the group had links with the Patriotic Movement of Côte d’Ivoire (MPCI) rebels, whose spokesman was Guillaume Soro. Asked about the abuses committed by the rebels in the West, the captain said MPIGO “perpetrated many massacres, besides looting.

Continuing on the attacks against the security forces, the defense then focused on the time of the post-election crisis in the Abobo area. Again, the witness recalled several incidents, including an attack on CRS elements around the Town Hall roundabout. “Many of them were killed,” said he, adding that the perpetrators were, according to his information, “young people who came out of the Marley neighborhood.”

“Those who attacked [the armed forces] had infiltrated the area. It was not the normal population,” he said, explaining further that the inhabitants had gradually fled the area, leaving the Abobo Commando Camp “under siege” from the time of the second round of the presidential election.

The life of the Abobo Commando Camp leader threatened

The discussion finally centered on the witness’s desertion. “You feared for your physical safety?” Altit asked.

“That’s right,” replied the captain, who admitted to being “extremely cautious.”

In a detailed manner, the witness then described how he joined the French 43rd BIMA battalion on March 3, 2011 before being transferred to the Golf Hotel the next day. Regarding the organization of Alassane Ouattara‘s headquarters, the former head of the Abobo Commando Camp gave very little information. The witness claimed to not know the identity of the uniformed men who were present because he stayed “in his room.” While recognizing the UN forces, the witness said he was unable to distinguish the rest of the men in uniform, whether rebels or members of the regular armed forces. As for the presence of French forces, it was only in private session that the captain revealed the identity of the two French soldiers he met at the Golf Hotel. “You would have preferred not to testify?” Altit finally asked in conclusion of this cross-examination.

“Indeed,” the witness bluntly admitted.

However, Blé Goudé’s defense sought clarification. Claver N’Dry questioned the witness about various events mentioned earlier, such as the march on the RTI. The former head of the Abobo Commando Camp confirmed, after the videos were watched, that men with heavy weapons were among the demonstrators. “We learned that members of the FDS [Ivorian Defense and Security Forces] were killed that day,” he testified.

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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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