Today is the first day of questioning for Metche Metchro Moise Harold Fabrice. The witness responded to questions from the Office of the Prosecutor about the Group of Patriots for Peace (GPP), a paramilitary organization that he joined at its inception in 2002.
The genesis of the GPP, its transformation, organization, hierarchy, and links with the political power were the topics discussed by the witness on Tuesday, October 18. Questioned by the prosecution, Metche Metchro Moise Harold Fabrice first went back on the creation of the paramilitary group by Charles Groguhet in October 2002 following the attempted coup. The stated goal was “to deal with the rebellion and support the defense and security forces [FDS],” the witness explained.
According to him, recruitment of young civilians “loyal to the government” was then started, and in November he joined the group, called “Young Runners” at the time. Led by members of the regular army, the new elements received training in handling weapons (AK 47), tactical movement, and discipline. At the time, two figures ran the paramilitary group: Zagpa You on the military side and Groguhet Charles, who was “the bridge with politics,” in the words of the witness, especially with “Charles Blé Goudé.”
On March 23, 2003, following a conclave of the Patriotic Galaxy, the GPP was officially launched, said Moise Metche Metchro Harold Fabrice. Touré Moussa Zeguen, who, according to the witness, also maintained close contact “with the Patriotic Galaxy led by Charles Blé Goudé,” then became head of the group. A man named Jeff Fada [Jean-Francois Kouassi] was in charge of military aspects, coordinating GPP activities via General Sako, from Army General Staff.
According to the witness, at that time, some 800 members of the GPP were stationed at the Adjamé Marie Therese Institute. They enjoyed several benefits, food, and a 40,000 CFA per diem, with the food being provided by the General Staff to Jeff Fada and the per diem collected by Touré Moussa Zeguen from Charles Blé Goudé.
“Relations between the GPP and the government became informal”
However, from the year 2006, “the relationship between the GPP and the government became informal,” the witness said. “We had to keep a low profile,” he added, noting the loss of certain privileges.
At issue were reports of abuses committed by GPP elements relayed by the international press. “Certain behaviors could be politically embarrassing,” the witness said.
Moreover, clashes with police led to the relocation of the paramilitary group to another base. The witness said the group was stationed farther from the city, at Azito, on land lent by Philippe Mangou. At that time, the group’s mission was still to supply the security forces, particularly in case of specific operations, such as conducting searches in mosques and private homes to find weapons caches. But relations with the population at Azito were far from being excellent because of regular extortion by the GPP, in the words of the witness. Thus, clashes broke out in November 2006 and the paramilitary group had to leave.
Another milestone in the history of the GPP was the DDR [disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration] agreement in 2007. According to the witness, the group was not officially disbanded, but the elements had to go through “symbolic disarmament at the new Akouédo camp.”
The instructions from the military hierarchy were allegedly as follows: the GPP would disarm when the rebels are disarmed. At that time according to the witness, the GPP was about 30,000 members-strong and a number of them were integrated into the FDS following the DDR process. However, the GPP allegedly continued to exist, despite tensions at the level of the military hierarchy. The witness explained that there was then “dual command” between Yoko Yoko Bernard Bouazo and Touré Moussa Zeguen, the latter being held responsible for the troops’ indiscipline and challenged within his group, even accused of corruption. The case was finally settled in the office of Defense Minister in September 2009. “Zeguen said he was handing over command to Bouazo” said the witness. Faithful to the other commander, the witness said he joined the Adjamé base in 2009, becoming the GPP Deputy Chief of Staff.
At that time, the group, which was then about 18,000 men-strong, had several bases, and implemented a “strategy of being present in every Abidjan neighborhood.” The troops were not paid, according to the witness, but still received food. To get enough food for his troops, Bernard Bouazo “wrote to the First Lady’s Secretariat” and “received positive answers,” the witness explained.
Before the hearing was suspended, the prosecution sought clarification from Metche Metchro Moise Harold Fabrice on the GPP loyalty code.
“Obey, obey, and carry out orders before complaining. Betrayal results in blood-spilling,” recited the witness.
He said that within the paramilitary group, the execution of an order could not be debated, even if it was illegal, under “penalty of serious consequences.” The former GPP number 2 insisted on giving an example of these “consequences,” telling the story of one of the elements suspected of “aiding the enemy.” While the leaders were discussing what this man’s fate would be the next day, he “allegedly slipped off the balcony,” and was killed in “the accident,” according to the witness.
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.