Published On: Wed, Jan 23rd, 2013

Cote d’Ivoire: Charles Ble Goude Charged with War Crimes

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Written by Rakotomalala · Translated by Jane Ellis from Global Voices

The Ivorian political leader Charles Blé Goudé, nicknamed the Street General, has been arrested in Ghana. A close associate of former president Laurent Gbagbo, he was charged with war crimes [fr] on January 21, 2013. Goudé had already been sentenced by the United Nations for, among other things, “repeated public statements advocating violence against the facilities and staff of the United Nations, and against foreigners” during events of 2004. His lawyer, Nick Kaufman, believes that his extradition from Ghana to Côte d’Ivoire did not follow regulatory procedures.

His arrest caused heated debate in the Ivorian blogosphere due to its taking place against a backdrop of attempts at national reconciliation in Côte d’Ivoire.

Charles blé goudé in handcuffs

Screen capture of Charles Blé Goudé being arrested – video courtesy of Grigri international

An arrest that got people talking

The arrest of Charles Blé Goudé, former Youth Minister and leader of the Young Patriots, leaves no one indifferent. On learning of his arrest on January 17, the Ivorian biosphere came to life. More than 1750 mentions of him appeared that day on twitter according to the Topsy website.  The opinions expressed on Blé Goudé are symptomatic of the polarisation of Ivorian society and underline the need for a sustained effort for real reconciliation after a crisis which still leaves traces and significant resentment.

Some welcomed the surprise arrest, like Roch Tieh, who stated [fr]:

 C’est une très bonne nouvelle dans cette ambiance de tension au Mali et en Algerie. Les extrémistes doivent comprendre qu’ils n’auront jamais le mot final.

This is very good news in this atmosphere of tension in Mali and Algeria. Extremists must understand that they will never have the final word.

Others such as Blé Felix reacted with moderation to his arrest [fr]:

 J’espère qu’il sera jugé de façon juste et objective.Et puis à quand les arrestations dans l’autre camp? car des crimes et des exactions on été aussi commis de ce côté là. Ou bien on a peur de scier la branche sur la quelle on est assis de peur qu’on ne tombe avec?

I hope he will be judged in a fair and objective manner. Also, when will there be arrests from the other side? because crimes and acts of violence were also committed on that side. Or are we afraid to cut the branch we are sitting on in case we fall with it?

Supporters feel that Charles Blé Goudé has been unfairly charged, including at Infodabidjan [fr]:

Le seul crime que le leader de la galaxie patriotique a commis c’est d’avoir choisi, au contraire d’autres jeunes qui servent les intérêts des impérialistes occidentaux, de défendre son pays et son continent depuis sa tendre jeunesse, sans se compromettre.

The only crime committed by the leader of the patriotic Galaxy was choosing, unlike other young people who serve the interests of the Western imperialists, to defend his country and his continent since his youngest days, without compromise.
Charles Blé Goudé and Laurent Gbagbo held a meeting in Marcory-Abidjan. Ivory Coast. 21/12/2010

Charles Blé Goudé and Laurent Gbagbo held a meeting in Marcory-Abidjan, Ivory Coast, 21/12/2010. Photo by Stephane Meisel from Demotix

What can be expected during the trial of Charles Blé Goudé?

His supporters still want to believe that they will succeed, if they mobilise themselves.  Balie Topla wrote about this in la Dêpeche d’Abidjan [fr]:

Pour moi, un des nôtres est tombé, un grand combattant des libertés a été fauché par l’intolérance. C’est pourquoi, aux côtés de tous les autres à travers le monde, je jouerai à fond ma partition pour sa défense et pour sa libération. Je vous invite à rejoindre la grande mobilisation qui se met en place pour que Blé Goudé ne soit pas seul devant l’adversité.

In my opinion, one of ours has fallen, a great freedom fighter has been claimed by intolerance. That is why, along with others around the world, I call from my heart for his defence and for his release. I invite you to join the great mobilisation that is taking place so that Blé Goudé is not alone in the face of adversity.

The acts Charles Blé Goudé has been charged with are well known to the general public. In the middle of the Ivorian crisis in December 2010 he had said, notably [fr]:

“Sarkozy et l’ONU préparent un génocide en Côte d’Ivoire”

Sarkozy and the United Nations are preparing for genocide in Côte d’Ivoire.

and:

“L’ONU a un mandat souterrain, ils veulent enlever Gbagbo du pouvoir (…) Vous allez devoir en tuer beaucoup. “

The United Nations has a hidden agenda, they want to remove Gbagbo from power (…) You will have to kill a lot. …

Incitements to violence on political opponents and the United Nations attributed to him will not stand in his favour during the trial.

The Human Rights Watch organization said that the Young Patriots have been implicated in the killing of hundreds of Ivorians and West African immigrants since the beginning of the conflict.

Allain Jules wondered however whether this arrest could lead to a process of national reconciliation [fr]:

Charles Blé Goudé est détenu en Côte d’Ivoire par les services de la police dans le cadre de la poursuite des procédures judiciaires déjà ouvertes contre lui » disent les autorités. Soit. Mais, si vraiment on veut faire la paix, il faut proscrire cette chasse aux sorcières. La justice des vainqueurs n’a jamais été bonne conseillère, la vengeance aussi…

Charles Blé Goudé has been detained in Côte d’Ivoire by the police in the pursuit of judicial proceedings already open against him say the authorities. OK. But, if really we want to make peace, we must forbid this witch hunt. Victor’s justice has never been fair, neither has revenge…
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