For the second day, prosecution witness Philipe Mangou, former Chief of Staff of the Côte d’Ivoire Armed Forces, answered questions by Emmanuel Altit, Laurent Gbagbo’s Lead Counsel.
“Our Mission is to Defend the Territorial Integrity of the Country”
Philipe Mangou’s cross-examination by Emmanuel Altit, Laurent Gbagbo’s lead defense counsel, entered its second day in the trial of former Ivorian president and Charles Blé Goudé at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
During the exchanges on Tuesday, October 3, the issue of the equipment of the former Defense Forces and Security Forces (FDS) during the crisis was discussed at length.
As he has pointed out since the beginning of his testimony, Mangou said that the men under his command suffered a terrible lack of weapons and ammunition during the crisis. To address this issue, Altit presented the witness with a video filmed in the basement of the Presidential Palace showing numerous cases of ammunition.
According to the witness, it was difficult to believe that the ammunition—presented at the time by Alassane Ouattara’s close associates as a stockpile of ammunition stored by Gbagbo—had been stored at the Palace over a long period.
“This ammunition cannot have been placed there for a long time. This is not possible. If this had been the case, we must thank the Lord that the president is still OK so far. Because what he sat on was a real bunker, a real powder magazine,” he told the court before elaborating on the dangers of ammunition.
“If the troops need ammunition, they should not be kept in the basement at the Presidential Palace. Why don’t we put them in the General Staff bunkers? It is absurd to keep the ammunition at a time when it is needed,” continued the former Commander of the Operational Theater.
Asked by Gbagbo’s lawyer about the outcome of the war if the ammunition had returned to the possession of his forces, the general replied: “You ask if I had ammunition and weapons, would I have won the war. I would not have made this war. I would not have waged it at all. Our mission is to defend the territorial integrity of the country at all times, in all places, and in all circumstances. It is to protect people and property. You know what triggered the crisis. It was that the results of the presidential election were challenged. The army is not meant to fight to keep a president who lost the elections in power. So this war, I would not have waged it. And that’s why I did not make war.”
“CECOS was Created with the Aim of Circumventing the Embargo”
“We had no more ammunition, but we could not tell people,” Mangou testified. However, the witness hinted that the precious equipment was managed by Dogbo Blé Bruno, former Commander of the Republican Guard.
“The president asked me to go and see Dogbo for ammunition. Dogbo gave me 15 cases of ammunition for the whole frontline and for Abidjan,” said the witness, who objected to having to ask Dogbo Blé Bruno for ammunition when the latter was under his command.
During the hearing on Tuesday, which took place in the presence of the two accused, the questions also focused on the Security Operations Command Center (CECOS).
Mangou disputed the testimony of a prior witness, General Georges Guiai Bi Poin, former head of the unit.
“When you take the CECOS staff, they gave you 200 people, it’s incorrect,” said the witness. “I had to take stock of the situation with all the commanders. CECOS had a workforce of 1,250 people to combat organized crime.”
According to Mangou, the setting-up of the CECOS aimed to find a response to counter the arms embargo that struck Côte d’Ivoire at the time.
“The CECOS was better equipped than both the Police and the Gendarmerie. Compared to what we had, CECOS had armaments. Under an embargo, all military units that bore the name ‘armed’ or ‘military’ were under embargo. CECOS somehow bypassed the embargo. The fact that the mission of CECOS was to fight against organized crime had somewhat camouflaged the military term. CECOS was able to have civilian vehicles. They were sold civilian vehicles. And, underhandedly, CECOS was able to equip itself as it wanted. And, as time went by, CECOS had the means it wanted. CECOS was created with the aim of circumventing the embargo,” said the witness.
Mangou added: “When CECOS was actually set up, men and weapons were taken from the units to build up CECOS. But afterwards, CECOS had the means, the machine guns and everything. We could not provide machine guns to CECOS because our men were on the ground. We needed arms. So they could not be provided to CECOS. I say that CECOS armed itself as it was entrusted with missions. And, CECOS was very powerful, with heavy machine guns and even light machine guns. CECOS had the necessary resources.”
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.