The prosecution continued to question Metche Metchro Moise Harold Fabrice Thursday, October 20, at the International Criminal Court. The questions focused on incidents involving the Group of Patriots for Peace (GPP) in the presidential election and post-election crisis.
While it had remained quiet since the 2007 disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) agreements, the GPP came back on center stage with the approach of presidential elections in 2010. “Officially it was disbanded in 2007, so it could not appear as such,” said the witness, himself a former member of that unit. For over two years, the GPP continued to exist “unofficially,” according to him, hidden behind the “interface” of the union of self-defense movements, created in 2008.
The GPP re-mobilized as the 2010 elections drew near
It was at the approach of the presidential election that the GPP started getting attention again, especially during a September 2010 event – a march by members of the paramilitary group. The objective of this march was to inform the authorities that the compensation provided for by the Ouagadougou agreements had never been paid. Following the march, which was interrupted by the security forces, the protesters were visited by Ahoua Stallone, one of the leaders of the Patriotic Galaxy, at their base Adjamé. “Carrying a message from Charles Blé Goudé,” according to the witness, Ahoua Stallone told the GPP members that they had been “heard in high places.”
From that time on, GPP elements joined the various barracks. According to the witness, in December, following a meeting at the Ministry of Defense, the decision was made to begin their integration “into the various camps.” Metche Metchro Moise Harold Fabrice mentioned in particular the 1st Paratrooper Commando Battalion, the ground-to-ground Artillery Battalion, the Armored Battalion, and later, the Republican Security Company, and the President’s Office.
The GPP mandated to identify undercover soldiers
The witness, who held the position of Deputy Chief of Staff of the paramilitary group, was stationed in Adjamé. This was where Yoko Yoko Bouazo Bernard, head of the GPP, oversaw the group’s operations and carried out the orders of the “network:” members of the Patriotic Galaxy and senior political figures. One of the group’s missions was to train the youths in firearms handling, from September 2010 in Abidjan and upcountry. With the approach of the presidential election, the paramilitary group was also entrusted with surveillance missions, in particular around the homes of members of Rally of Houphouetists for Democracy and Peace (RHDP), a political party supporting Alassane Ouattara. The goal was to find out if they received suspicious individuals, potentially close to the rebellion.
From October, the GPP was also mandated to set up “checkpoints” to search vehicles and check identities, an order that the witness said came from Kipré, the Commander of the Republican Guard. During these inspections, the GPP arrested “suspicious individuals” with no identity papers and especially no knowledge of the city. According to the witness, these could be Burkinabe soldiers who infiltrated the city to fight alongside the rebels.
Once arrested, these people were to be quickly handed over to the police, a “procedure” applied until the times became more troubled. “At one time we were really overwhelmed,” the witness said, referring to the months of February and March 2011. With “popular uprising” of RHDP supporters and “clashes in Abobo” the police no longer had the time to collect individuals arrested by the GPP. “In some municipalities, in particular Yopougon, people were burnt after they were accused of being rebels, attackers,” said the witness, who also stated that he personally never “received any clear orders to burn anybody.”
Other incidents were also discussed today, including the RHDP march on the RTI (Ivorian Radio Television) in December. However, most of the discussions were held in closed session. The witness quickly explained that his troops were ordered “to support the FDS [Defense and Security Forces]”, but they “were not instructed to go out armed.” The witness also recalled an incident that day with the 7th District Commissioner at the Adjamé base.
“We were on the brink of confrontation,” he said, adding that the Commissioner and his elements had tried to force their way into the GPP premises. “They did not agree to our stopping the marchers and keeping them in our premises,” said the former number two of the paramilitary group, adding that some protesters had been “beaten up.”
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.