Evariste Yaké, a former Gbagbo supporter who became a Ouattara activist, finished his testimony on Wednesday, April 5th. The prosecution explored the witness’s reports with Charles Blé Goudé and the Patriotic Galaxy while the defense focused on exposing the opportunistic nature of his political career.
At the opening of the hearing on Tuesday, trial lawyer Lucio Garcia questioned Evariste Yaké about the Plateau agoras in Abidjan, which served as echo chambers for Laurent Gbagbo’s campaign, and continued to explore the composition of the various youth movements advocating for his cause. “What was the Patriotic Galaxy?” he asked, getting a vague answer.
“They were all those who loved Laurent Gbagbo and who were convinced that he was the right person to be president. There were senior patriots, planters, hunters, women, artists, footballers.”
Asked about the “most significant” movement in this galaxy, the witness quoted the COJEP “led by Charles Blé Goudé who was on the front line. All the major meetings for Laurent Gbagbo started from there.”
“Blé Goudé and Maho Glofiéhi, hand in hand”
Garcia stopped on Maho Glofiéhi, leader of a militia in the west of the country. “I saw him at a meeting in Yopougon during the campaign. The procession of youth leaders arrived, led by Blé Goudé, hand in hand with Glofiéhi” said the witness, who allegedly met him one day at the president’s office.
“He was not a high-ranking army officer, but everybody saw him pass by with his procession and his weapons.” The witness recognized him on videos of meetings in the presence of Blé Goudé, presented by the prosecution, sitting in the front row. He also identified Serge Kassy, Richard Dacoury, Idriss Ouattara, Augustin Mian, Jean-Yves Dibopieu, Ahoua Stallone, Konate Navigé, and others.
Seri Zokou opened the examination by the defense. His line of questions was to show that the witness had only brief contacts with Blé Goudé when he approached him in 2008 to support Gbagbo in the west of the country. “Were you on a daily basis relationship with Charles Blé Goudé, were you aware of his agenda, did you participate in the design or organization of the campaign?”
“No,” invariably replied Yaké in total coherence with what he said the day before.
The Ivorian lawyer then returned to an episode sidestepped by the prosecution, where Yaké explained that he was almost “burned like an omelette” when he came to Man to campaign on behalf of his “boss Franck Guei,” dressed in a tee-shirt with candidate Gbagbo’s picture.
“There was a demonstration by our opponents. A very excited crowd came to me saying ‘this is Laurent Gbagbo’s man.’ They burned my car, I almost died.” He explained that three people, including the Deputy Area Commander of the Forces Nouvelles, had extirpated him from this delicate situation.
“Who were your assailants?” The lawyer asked.
“RDR sympathizers,” responded Yaké.
“Laurent Gbagbo was a left-wing politician if my memories are good”
The focus was on his political career and support for three successive parties, the UDPCI, the FPI, and the RDR. “For me who lived in France at the time, to see that the president, the first development agent in a region, was from my region and was a friend of my father, led me to support General Gué.” He said that he was not a card-carrying member of the UDPCI: “I just adhered to the cause.”
“Why did he join the Gbagbo camp?” the defense wanted to know. Through Lida Kouassi and out of interest in the multiparty system, the witness replied.
Asked about Gbagbo’s “political tendency,” he took time to respond. “For me, he was a democrat, rather on the left if my memories are good.”
“When did you join the Ouattara camp?” continued Zokou.
“Upon my return to Côte d’Ivoire in 2012”. His own movement, Horizon 2020, served him as “a propaganda tool for Ouattara’s actions.” Interior Minister Hamed Bakayoko allegedly helped him financially to campaign in the West with his party and Hamadou Soumahoro, RDR Secretary General to “hold meetings in areas where there were many young LMP people.”
“Is Laurent Gbagbo still your champion?” Zokou asked.
“With all due respect to him, today I support another party.”
“The press is a way to get messages through without paying”
Dutch lawyer Geert-Jan Alexander Knoops was brief, pointing out that the witness had never intervened in the agoras in Abidjan during the campaign: “During the campaign I was in the West.”
French lawyer Emmanuel Altit tried to establish the financing of his political activities as well as his sources of income. He intervened with questions unrelated to the post-electoral crisis and closer to testing the credibility of the witness.
The witness explained, in particular, that after campaigning “for RHDP President, Ouattara” in 2015, he ran as an independent candidate in the 2016 legislative elections because he was not nominated as a RHDP candidate.
“How do you make a living?” the lawyer wanted to know. Yaké said from his real estate services on behalf of the RDR spokesman, Joël N’Guessan, and the apartments left by “my mother who was a diplomat,” said the shifty activist, a father of four children, and an exile in Ghana for one year after April 2011.
“Why did you give so many interviews to journalists?” the lawyer wanted to know.
“The press is a way of getting messages to the four corners of Côte d’Ivoire, and we don’t have to pay for it. This also shows friends who are afraid that we are free to talk.”
Yaké’s testimony took two days. “We wish you fair winds,” Presiding Judge Cuno Tarfusser concluded before adjourning until April 24, when witness P-108 is due to appear.
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.