The prosecution asked their last questions to “Junior Gbagbo” on Thursday, November 17, at the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Liberian ex-combatant talked about his role during the 2010-2011 post-election crisis.
“To protect the president:” This is the role that the witness allegedly assumed during the post-election crisis. For three to four months, until the arrest of Laurent Gbagbo, Jérôme Tarlue, also known as “Junior Gbagbo” was stationed at the president’s residence in Cocody, according to his statements. When questioned by the lawyers for the prosecution on the subject, the Liberian veteran told of how he got there. While residing with some 15 other Liberian ex-combatants in the Red City, the witness was approached by Séka Séka.
“He said he wanted us to help him,” he said, adding that they had first to prove that they knew how to “handle arms.”
While Tarlue finds it difficult to define the temporal framework of his narratives, he does not hesitate to provide ample details about the course of events. Thus, the ex-combatant dwelt at length on the night when he actually joined the residence. While Simone Gbagbo’s bodyguard was to come back to pick up the Liberians in the Red City, it was the target of an attack. The former members of the Lima forces had to flee, were shot at, and retaliated with weapons found on the battlefield. Finally, Tarlue and his men managed to reach the residence. From then on, the group called “Moby 1” was “under the command of Séka Séka ” and his deputy.
“What were you doing at the residence?” asked the representative of the prosecution.
“We love the president, and we wanted to ensure his protection,” said Junior Gbagbo.
He spoke at length about how the residence was “under attack all the time” and how the heavy weapons had been destroyed by the French. “We only had AK47 left,” he said. Alongside the gendarmes, the Liberians’ mission was to fight and “repel the assailants.”
The witness also talked of a security mission around Michel Gbagbo, the former president’s son, during one of his trips. “Thanks to me he was not touched that day,” the witness said.
The prosecution also wanted to know what had happened to the Liberians once Laurent Gbagbo was arrested. Tarlue recounted how he had left the residence to go first to Yopougon and then to navy “barracks,” from which he himself managed to “escape.”
“It was total chaos,” he said.
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.