For his second day of testimony before the International Criminal Court (ICC), Firmin Detoh Letho, former Ivorian Land Forces Commander, discussed the events in Abobo and the details of his arrival at the Golf Hotel in March 2011.
The former Commander of the Ivorian Land Forces, General Firmin Detoh Letho, began his second day of testimony on November 8, 2017. The General, who retired in late 2016, testified about the circumstances of his arrival at the Golf Hotel, Alassane Ouattara’s headquarters, on March 25, 2011.
The witness, who spoke via video conference from Côte d’Ivoire, responded to those who call him a traitor.
“On March 25, 2011, I went to the Golf. I had two main reasons. The first was that I wanted the war to stop. I knew that my elements on the ground had no means and that Abidjan was completely taken. When you have elements with magazines in which there are 12 cartridges this means sending your men to the slaughterhouse,” said the former Inspector General of the Armed Forces.
“I would like to avail myself of this opportunity,” added the prosecution witness, “to say that after I did this, I was called a fugitive, one who betrayed, but the whole of [Côte d’Ivoire] can bear witness to what I am saying. From the time this war was begun until I left for the Golf – Gbagbo is sitting, listening to me, the whole of Côte d’Ivoire is listening to me, the international community is listening to me – I’ve never been a soldier that shirks fighting. And that’s why I have reached the rank of General.”
“On March 3, There Was no Question of a March That Needed to be Secured”
Interrupted several times at the request of the witness, who asked for breaks, the testimony of Detoh Letho also touched on the events that occurred in Abobo at the height of the crisis, including the women’s march and the alleged bombing of the Siaka Koné market in the commune.
On the first point, the General indicated that he did not know much. “On March 3, there was no mention of a march that needed to be secured. Nobody knew about any march in Abobo,” he said.
The former Deputy Chief of the Republican Forces of Côte d’Ivoire (FRCI) testified about the responsibility of his soldiers in this incident.
“On March 3, none of our elements were at their checkpoint. It was impossible for our elements to stay at the control post. They were all grouped at the Abobo Commando Camp. I asked Lieutenant-Colonel Basile Niamkey in the field if he knew of any march. He said no. But that day, he had to provide supplies and when he got to Gagnoa station, he was attacked by unknown elements, and he fought back but later returned to the Abobo Commando Camp… That day, our elements did not leave the Abobo Commando Camp. They could not,” said the witness.
Witness: Abehi Told Mangou he Was Going to Clean Up Abobo”
The witness gave more details about the Siaka Koné market bombing on March 17. According to him, he learned about the situation from an anonymous call. Close to Abobo at the time of the events, Detoh Letho said he heard the shots from the terrace of his home.
The witness mentioned the role of Jean-Noel Abéhi, at the time Commander of the Armored Squadron of the National Gendarmerie (GEB).
“I called General Mangou and told him that I heard gunshots in Abobo. He told me he had been told the same and that he had called Commander Abehi who told him he was going to Abobo to clean up Abobo. General Mangou told him that if he had not yet reached Abobo he should turn around,” said the witness.
According to the witness, the presence of Abéhi was also confirmed by informants posted in the Abobo-Adjamé University area [today, Nangui Abrogoua].
“They reportedly saw Commander Abèhi with the GEB vehicle moving towards Abobo. The next day, like everyone else, we learned that the Abobo market was bombed,” added the general.
In his testimony, the witness exculpated elements of the Ivorian army based at the Abobo Commando Camp.
“Technically, on this event, if 60-mm mortars were to be fired from the Commando Camp, they would not hit the target simply because the distance between the Commando Camp, and the market is beyond the reach of the mortar. I do not know where our elements that were in Abobo would be located to fire on the Abobo market. Shots could not possibly have been fired from the Commando Camp. At that moment, our elements were more interested in security for themselves than in carrying out an attack. According to my analysis, I do not know where the shots were fired from,” he said.
The witness’s examination by the Office of the Prosecutor ended on November 8, and Gbagbo’s defense team, led by Emmanuel Altit, began their cross-examination. Responding to the first questions from the former Ivorian president’s lawyer, the witness said that at the time, “there were weapons” in Abidjan that were used to “attack” former FDS positions.
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.