Philippe Mangou was called for the second time before the International Criminal Court (ICC) on September 26th. On this occasion, the four-star general returned to the last weeks of the post-electoral crisis in Côte d’Ivoire.
On his second day of testimony before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the trial of Laurant Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé, Philippe Mangou was once again questioned by prosecutor Eric McDonald.
During his testimony, Mangou returned at length to the last weeks of the battle of Abidjan in March and April 2011. The prosecution witness also revealed that he advised Laurent Gbagbo to leave power at the height of the conflict.
“His Coming Was a Bit Like the Kiss of Death”
The Lieutenant-General said he made the proposal to Gbagbo at a meeting convened by the former Ivorian president.
“President Gbagbo asked to see me. He said to me: ‘General, you are with Blé Goudé my trusted confidant. I’ll ask you a question, please answer it. Then you go to the General Staff and wait there. I’ll talk with Blé. At the end of the interview come see me after harmonizing positions.’ And then the Head of State said to me, ‘The international community has just dropped me. The Angolan and South African Presidents ask me to resign, now what do you think?’ I jump on the occasion and I say ‘resign, honor these two presidents. There have already been too many deaths’,” the witness said.
Phillipe Mangou explained to the court that he shared this position with Charles Blé Goudé. However, according to the Côte d’Ivoire ambassador in Gabon, this almost cost him his life.
“For having only suggested to the president that he should resign, they wanted to kill me,” the witness added, alluding to the attack on his residence a few days later.
“His arrival was a bit like the kiss of death,” Mangou said about his meeting with Charles Blé Goudé at the General Staff.
The 65-year-old General told the court, presided over by Judge Cuno Tarfusser, that the Gbagbo camp had mercenaries in its ranks, that he met on his way out of Gbagbo’s residence on March 4, 2011.
“I saw five unmarked military vehicles full of mercenaries led by Séka Séka, aide-de-camp to Simone Gbagbo. The ones I saw were not Ivorian soldiers. They were mercenaries, I mean mercenaries,” said the witness, adding that the members of the detachment commanded by Séka Séka were “superbly armed with Kalachs, APs [automatic pistols], and RPGs, while the Ivorian army had run out of ammunition.”
“I Was Caught in the Crossfire”
In his testimony at the ICC, Mangou examined the difficult relations he had with the Gbagbo camp. These relations had forced him to take refuge in the premises of the embassy of South Africa on March 30, 2011 as pro-Ouattara forces continued their attack on Abidjan.
“I was caught in the crossfire,” the witness said. “My own camp rejected me because they believed I was betraying them and the brothers-in-arms who were coming in… And on March 30, 2011, at around 10:30 pm, I went to the embassy of South Africa with all my family.”
The witness was defensive about his actions during the crisis.
“We fought in difficult conditions, from the beginning of the war. Without ammunition,” Mangou said. “And today people who know nothing about all this call us traitors and cowards when we did fight for the Republic. I know that I am a prominent witness. I will tell the whole truth.”
An Ebrié by ethnic origin, Mangou also testified about the violent attack on the Ebrié village of Anonkoua Kouté during the crisis. The General testified that he attempted to make amends with the people of this locality, arguing that the lack of equipment did not allow his forces to ensure the safety of the inhabitants.
“I wanted to take this opportunity to apologize to the people of Abobo because we could not help them and those at Anonkoua Kouté. If we were not able to defend them, it was because we had run out of ammunition,” the witness said.
“Gbagbo Was Arrested by the 2nd Army of Cote d’Ivoire”
When Eric McDonald asked the witness about events in 2002, Mangou strongly criticized the political agreements leading to the restructuring of the Ivorian army to take account of the ex-rebels.
Very bitter, the former Head of General Staff decried these compromises.
“It was those who went to discuss in Ouaga who brought back difficult decisions for our men to apply. Much against my will, I had to tour the barracks to convince my men,” he said.
With this fact established, the witness rejected the idea that Gbagbo was arrested in April 2011 by rebel soldiers. “It was the 2nd Army of Cote d’Ivoire that drove him out. These are not rebels,” remarked the Abidjan native.
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.