The much-expected testimony of former Chief of Staff Philippe Mangou before the International Criminal Court (ICC) began on Monday, September 25, 2017.
Chief of Staff of the Ivorian armies at the time of the post-electoral crisis, Philippe Mangou, began testifying before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the trial of Laurant Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé on September 25, 2017.
Devoted to the organization of Ivorian forces during the Ivorian crisis, the first few minutes of the Prosecution team’s examination exposed the difficult relations between the witness and the other generals.
“With General Kassaraté, it was going well but during the crisis, we had moments of friction. At the moment when there was a need for staff to work on the ground, Kassaraté and the Police DG [Brédou M’Bia] did not play with an open hand. Not that the gendarmes and policemen did not want to work. They were on the ground. But the problem was the leader, who did not want to provide staff,” General Mangou said.
According to the witness, who is currently Côte d’Ivoire’s ambassador in Gabon, the two officers had a somewhat ambiguous position during the Ivorian crisis. However, he testified, he did not suspect them of collusion with the opponents of the Gbagbo camp at the time.
“They were not straightforward with us,” said the prosecution witness, “they seemed to be wandering about, in search of firm ground to set foot on.”
Philippe Mangou said that during a meeting at the General Staff, generals Brédou M’Bia and Kassaraté only made 1250 and 500 men, respectively, available to the Staff.
On the first day of his hearing, the witness also strongly criticized Bruno Dogbo Blé, the former head of the Republican Guard. In his remarks, the witness suggested that Dogbo was not under his control. Though he described him as a “smart and determined” officer, Philippe Mangou told the court that the soldier—who is currently serving a prison sentence in Côte d’Ivoire—had changed a lot after Laurent Gbagbo appointed him to be Military Commander of the President’s Office in Abidjan.
“At the time Dogbo, a timid man, was the type of person to practically hug the walls. But later on, he was barely recognizable,” the witness testified.
“Dogbo, the Military Commander of the President’s Office, had grown wings to the point of arresting elders like General Coulibaly Abdoulaye because he was leaving the Golf, seizing his cell phone. He no longer respected anyone. Unfortunately, we have some officers who behave like this,” Mangou said.
“In seven years, Dogbo attended a meeting at the General Staff only twice. He always sent officers,” he added.
In his answers, the witness also discussed his relations with Simone Gbagbo. Mangou said he had spoken on only one occasion with the wife of the former Ivorian president during all the crisis. He said the discussion focused on “the events at Anokoua Kouté,” an Ebrié village which was the scene of violent incidents during the Ivorian crisis.
“Abobo Was Not a War Zone”
During his testimony, the former resident of Camp Gallieni in Abidjan-Plateau also testified about the situation in Abobo commune during the post-electoral crisis. Questioned by Deputy Prosecutor Eric McDonald, Mangou said that Abidjan’s most populous commune “was never declared a war zone,” contrary to what he had intended to do, to counter the action of the “Invisible Commando.” The witness indicated that Laurant Gbagbo had rejected this option.
“I went to see the Minister of Defense to suggest that Abobo be declared a war zone to enable us to accomplish our mission. It was a matter of securing our neighborhoods behind our positions to give the people 48 to 72 hours to come to the secure zone so that we knew who was shooting at us … The President of the Republic’s reply was “no”! He said that in his speeches he often said that there was no longer any war in Cote d’Ivoire and to say that Abobo was a war zone was confusing,” explained the witness.
Mangou also admitted that the defense forces had “failed” in Abobo during this crisis. “We did not succeed in our mission in Abobo,” admitted the witness, “because our mission is to secure the people.”
The situation at the Golf Hotel was another issue the prosecution asked the witness about. In particular, the General testified about the “blockade” imposed on the people installed in the hotel, which was the headquarters of candidate Alassane Ouattara. According to him, this measure aimed to control the movements of soldiers who were members of the rebellion who, after the second round of the presidential election, had settled in the hotel instead of returning to their base in the north of the country.
“The President of the Republic had given instructions to ensure that the soldiers who were there should not leave. In our mind, it was never a blockade. The station was a checkpoint to prevent the soldiers from going out, committing various misdeeds and then accusing the Defense and Security Forces,” the witness 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, 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.