Evariste Yaké, a former Laurent Gbagbo supporter who later became a prominent member of Alassane Ouattara’s party was the 37th prosecution witness in the Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé trial. His first day of testimony revolved around his relationship with the former leader of the Young Patriots.
It was a witness with a political profile, who began to testify Tuesday morning at the International Criminal Court. His background, implications, entourage, and relations with Charles Blé Goudé were reviewed by prosecution lawyer Lucio Garcia.
Evariste Yaké, a native of the Man region in western Côte d’Ivoire, is now a member of RDR (Rassemblement des Républicains) Secretary General, Amadou Soumahoro’s Office. “I am in charge of welcoming new recruits to the party,” he said. His activities also lead him to work “with the consulting firm of Joël N’Guessan,” RDR spokesman and former Gbagbo Minister. Evariste Yaké is himself the leader of the “Horizon 2020” party whose objective is “reconciliation in Côte d’Ivoire.”
“He gave us sixteen new motorcycles”
Prior to “accepting the extended hand of His Excellency Alassane Ouattara,” as he indicated in an interview given to IvoirTV in 2014, the witness was an active Gbagbo supporter in the west of the country, first at the request of Blé Goudé, then on his own initiative. During the post-election crisis, he said he was “a Special Assistant to Franck Gueî, who had [him] appointed in his office at State House.” He was also president of the Ivorian refugees in Ghana, where he lived in exile before joining the RDR.
After living in Europe, Yaké returned to Côte d’Ivoire in 2006 and became involved in politics. Lida Kouassi, Gbagbo’s former Minister of Defense, helped him into the saddle. Solicited by the youths in his neighborhood, he was president of the JUDEM in 2007, “United Youth Association for the Development of the Mountains Region.” While he frequented the leaders of various movements favorable to Gbagbo, journalist Guillaume Gbato asked him to preside over the Mountains Region Coalition of Youth Movements and Associations for Laurent Gbagbo (COMAJMG). “The young people came to see me and said that we needed to pool forces to support and make Laurent Gbagbo win.”
It was during this period that the ex-leader of the Young Patriots allegedly approached him. “One morning I received a phone call from Charles Blé Goudé who gave me an appointment at his office in Cocody.” The witness accepted his proposal to “support Laurent Gbagbo, bring his message to the grassroots and report back to him,” and asked him for his logistical assistance to reach the isolated and mountainous villages in the west of the country.
“He handed us 16 new motorcycles. It was a way to stimulate the leaders who knew that if they did their job well, they would keep their bike,” he said. Blé Goudé also gave him “500,000” CFA francs (760 euros). On the ground, the young activists then incited the population to register in order to obtain papers and voting cards “to vote and express their support for Laurent Gbagbo.”
“Often, when the President was there, Charles was there too”
The witness then recounted his shortened visit to “Blé Goudé’s home in Yopougon,” to accompany an activist “who had to report to his leader.” Left at the door, he took umbrage. “We were told to wait outside. Blé Goudé was not my chief, I left.”
Shortly afterwards, the future and short-lived Minister of Youth went to the Man area for a meeting and “stopped” in the village of the witness, who reported that all these events preceded Blé Goudé’s appointment as Gbagbo’s Campaign Deputy Director in October 2009.
Once officially appointed, the leader of the Patriotic Galaxy began to get a youth representative for the Tonkpi region elected. The witness emerged the winner of the vote, before being disavowed by Blé Goudé. “They decided to appoint a supervisor from the JFPI [the youth movement of the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI)].” This caused the rift between the two men. Yaké then decided to campaign on his side, supported by his “boss” Franck Guéï. “I got back to square one. We had to stay zen, we had one goal, to make our champion win.”
The prosecution lawyer repeatedly tried to obtain information on the funds received by Blé Goudé to campaign, on COJEP’s funding (a movement founded by Charles Blé Goudé), as well as on the various problems that the distribution of these sums may apparently have caused.
“I was no longer in the network, I had no more information”, repeated the witness, who stopped on the proximity between Gbagbo and Blé Goudé. “He was the politically beloved son of Laurent Gbagbo. Often, when the president was around, Charles was too. He saw him when he wanted, he had cars and security guards, but all of Cote d’Ivoire knows that.”
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.