This fourth day of General Kassaraté’s testimony in the Gbagbo and Blé Goudé case was dense and electric. During this new dispute between the witness, always with a profound aversion to dates, and the Office of the Prosecutor and Judge Tarfusser, some information finally filtered out, for example dissensions between the Commander of the Gendarmerie and the Chief of Staff Philippe Mangou.
As a prelude to this new day of General Kassaraté’s testimony at the International Criminal Court, Presiding Judge Cuno Tarfusser addressed the witness looking him straight in the eye. “Often you do not remember, or you learn the information on television. But given the position you held, this is very astonishing.”
He then reminded him that “false testimony or incomplete testimony constitutes an offense against the Court, the consequence of which may be five years’ imprisonment.”
Prosecution documents presented to the public
Witness Kassaraté then returned several times to his memory problems. “I have been an ambassador in Dakar for six years, and I am far removed from this case. I can remember facts, but hardly dates … I agreed to come as a free witness, and it is my duty to tell the truth. But to say that such a day such a person said that, I cannot. From my testimony in Abidjan to this day, I have always said that.”
He also said that one of the investigators in the prosecutor’s office had treated him as if he suffered from “amnesia.”
The hearing on Monday was rich in information, and it is not possible to report it exhaustively here. Moving backward in the course of events, prosecution lawyer Alexis Demirdjian again relied on the entries and exits register of the President’s Residence to question the witness about the content of the many meetings held there, in the presence of the high hierarchy in the service of Laurent Gbagbo. For the first time since the resumption of the trial on February 6, written documents, when they were public, were displayed on a screen.
The pattern has often been repeated, of a General Kassaraté not remembering the contents of the meetings evoked, intervening at strategic moments of the crisis. “We often went to see the Head of State,” he said.
Despite these repeated oversights, the nature of the relationships between protagonists linked to the facts gradually emerged this Monday, March 13. For example, Edouard Kassaraté eventually said that Charles Blé Goudé and Philippe Mangou were “very close.”
Kassaraté close to Simone Gbagbo
Differences also emerged between General Kassaraté and Chief of Staff Philippe Mangou. On Friday, Kassaraté had already mentioned a conflict with Mangou about a request to provide Gendarmerie School pupils for a military battalion. The refusal of the Ivorian Gendarmerie Commander was then reportedly “received as an act of disobedience.”
On the other hand, there was talk of a meeting organized in January 2011 by Blé Goudé to honor the army. Kassaraté was allegedly advised not to go there because of the “too political” character of this gathering. Neither did Philippe Mangou keep the promise made to Kassaraté not to go there.
“Later, on the pictures, I saw that he was there,” said the witness.
Another skirmish happened when the African Union recognized the victory of Ouattara in March 2011. “We asked Mangou to meet the President in order to have his reading of the situation. He then told us that he was not going to tell us what the President had said to him, and that the President would tell us himself. I did not like it.”
On February 28, 2011, during a meeting at Gbagbo’s Residence, Kassaraté referred to a “scuffle” between the two men: “I was reproached for the fact that the Gendarmerie did not obey orders from the Chief of Staff. I did not agree with this assertion by Mangou.”
Gbagbo then asked the two generals to explain themselves. “We left each other in peace and serenity,” said Kassaraté.
The nature of the relations between Simone Gbagbo and Kassaraté, who “met very often” at the Residence, was also discussed. “She was a sister; we had known each other for a long time. She was the daughter of a gendarme whom I knew.”
Referring to a meeting with the First Lady following the events at Abobo station: “When these killings were committed by the invisible Commando, she was shocked, affected, and worried about what could happen to the people. As a representative for the neighborhood, she wanted to know what measures were being taken by security. ”
“It’s very hard to believe you”
Kassaraté’s testimony also repeatedly highlighted a bad climate between the Police Forces and the Gendarmerie, in particular following an FDS (Defense and Security Forces) operation in January 2011 to dislodge the Invisible Commando in Abobo, resulting in the deaths of several police officers. “The atmosphere was deleterious between the police and the Gendarmerie. There was a tendency to pit them against each other.”
An invisible Commando that he repeatedly lambasted: “They were causing harm and miseries to the people.”
The prosecutor also returned to the RHDP march on December 16, 2010, to install the new President of the Ivorian Radio and Television (RTI) appointed by Alassane Ouattara. Kassaraté allegedly got the information on the television “broadcasting from the Golf.” His answers implied that he had not been involved in the preparation of operations to secure the march and that the measures were left to “the General Staff, the police, and the Department Gendarmerie.”
No more information about the meeting, the day before this march, at the President’s Office. “Through no fault of my own, I cannot remember what we had been talking about, but I knew that some security service had been deployed to prevent seizure of the RTI,” said Kassaraté.
This new absence infuriated Judge Tarfusser, “You are the Head of the Gendarmerie. It’s strange that you only heard about this march on the television. I therefore take it that the Gendarmerie services were not functioning well. It is also strange that you had a meeting at the President’s Office late in the evening, which is not usual, and do not remember anything! It’s very hard to believe you.”
The hearing then held a private session at the request of Judge Tarfusser. It was the first private session since the testimony of the former Head of the Gendarmerie.
“I was surrounded by the Republican Guard just outside the President’s door“
Kassaraté then declared that he was not on the field during the FDS operations to secure the RTI but at home. His explanation for the wounded and the dead on that day: “When people are pushed back, there are always some who get hurt and fall, this happens when one is maintaining law and order.”
At the end of the day, and before the infuriated judge suspended the hearing until the day after, Edouard Kassaraté recounted his last meeting at the President’s Residence in April 2011 before Gbagbo was arrested. “I saw that many generals were not in office, and I made the personal decision to go to Laurent Gbagbo to advise him to hand over power to Alassane Ouattara. I was surrounded and threatened outside his door by his Republican Guard who had handguns, but the President did not know. They called me a traitor. The President learned this and told me to give up. That’s all, I left, and we did not have the interview.”
He finally recounted how his house was looted. “I lived in Tabou in the south-east of the Côte d’Ivoire, and my village is Karié. Elements from the north called me pro-Gbagbo and burned my house to the ground in Karié. Upon arriving in Tabou, they said they were mistaken, that I was rather a pro-Ouattara and my house was looted. That was how dramatic my situation was.”
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.