Justice pins Gbagbo, but not yet Ouattara's forces

By Aminata Le Bas with Mohamed Keita/CPJ Africa Program on November 30, 2011 5:06 PM ET

Pro-Ouattara FRCI soldiers patrol along a road in Yopougon. (Reuters).

This week, former Ivory Coast ruler Laurent Gbagbo was extradited to the Hague to account for alleged human rights violations before the International Criminal Court. Justice appears to be slower in coming to rival fighters loyal to current President Alassane Ouattara. According to CPJ research, Ouattara's forces have been involved in the deaths of two journalists, most recently Gilles Tutsi Murris Dabé.

Dabé, 39, a presenter with private Radio Nostalgie, was killed by a stray bullet around midnight on November 20, after fighters from the pro-Ouattara Republican Forces of the Ivory Coast (known by the French acronym FRCI) opened fire at a car at a checkpoint near the president's private residence, according to news reports and local journalists. The fighters opened fire after the driver refused to stop, witnesses told CPJ.

Gilles Tutsi Murris Dabé (Tusty Officiel)

Dabé was better known as "La souris de la route" (The mouse of the road), in reference to the popular educational show on traffic safety he hosted on Radio Nostalgie. Dabé was not on duty when he was killed. According to Radio Nostalgie reporter Yves Douoh, who was standing with Dabé and his wife as they hailed a taxi in the Cocody neighborhood of Abidjan, the journalist was on his way home after taking part in a comedy festival, "Festival du Rire." Dabé was immediately transferred to a hospital after the shooting, but did not survive his injuries.

Dabé was the second journalist killed by FRCI bullets this year, after Sylvain Gagnetau Lago was executed in May during a security sweep, according to CPJ research. His body was later found in a mass grave. This followed FRCI forces' ransacking of his station, Radio Yopougon, and their occupation of pro-Gbagbo media outlets. The United Nations has accused FRCI forces of involvement in extrajudicial killings and abuses, according to news reports. In a June 14 report issued to the U.N. Human Rights Council, an international independent commission on Ivory Coast noted that "it had not been informed of effective procedures taken against members of FRCI accused of human rights violations."

Speaking to CPJ on Wednesday, Ivorian Interior Minister Ahmed Bakayoko, who owns Radio Nostalgie, said progress has been made, and blamed ongoing insecurity on the previous government. "The government has made efforts to collect weapons, but those who were in power [previously] distributed a lot of them," Bakayoko told CPJ, referencing the Gbagbo government. He dismissed reports of FRCI harassment of journalists favorable to Gbabgo. "You should not just read, you must come to Ivory Coast to see the reality." He referred our inquiry to the ministry of defense, blaming the shooting that killed Dabé on the military.

Both sides committed abuses against the media during Ivory Coast's five-month military standoff and struggle for power, according to CPJ research. According to media reports, the government set up in May a military prosecutor to investigate all cases of human rights violations, including those committed by pro-Ouattara forces. In an interview today with CPJ, Ange Kessi, the military prosecutor, said he was not aware of Dabé's death. Asked if sanctions have been taken against the perpetrators of abuses, Kessi offered a general explanation of the procedure. "There are steps, sanctions taken if the acts are brought to our knowledge. They are arrested, and of course legal proceedings are initiated." According to him, some two dozen members of the security forces, including policemen and FRCI fighters, are in custody. "I currently am in charge of roughly 20 cases, 25 militaries have been arrested," he said. "The trial will start before December 11, 2011."


It is hard to overstate the danger posed by selective justice in Ivory Coast. This theme is explored in a recent short film produced by IRIN news.

ivorians are praying for the country! for Africa and the whole world ,i eye-witnessed the whole crisis as all impartial Ivorian ,we know the truth and we know that this time GOD wont leave injustice win on justice

When will Africa be truly free? Is it possible to break free from the past a hsiroty of the “Scramble for Africa” and power relations of ‘master-slave’, ‘horse and rider’ relationships between Africa and the West, whose legacy has left the continent stripped of its natural resources and cultural treasures? Patrick Williams and Laura Chrisman in Colonial Discourse and Post Colonial Theory: A Reader give this compelling account and further note, ‘The ending of colonial rule created high hopes for the newly independent [African] countries and for the inauguration of a proper post-colonial era, but such optimism was relatively short lived, as the extent to which the West had not relinquished control became clear. This continuing Western influence, located in flexible combinations of the economic, the political, the military, and the ideological (but with an over-riding economic purpose), was named neo-colonialism by Marxists…” Aime9 Ce9saire also reflects on the psychological effects of the relationship ‘between the colonizer and the colonized there is room only for forced labor, intimidation, pressure, the police [the military]…he further argues that ‘no human contact, but relations of domination and submission which turn the colonizing man into a classroom monitor, an army sergeant, a prison guard, a slave driver, and an indigenous man into an instrument of production.’ President Thabo Mbeki’s forceful institutional critique against what appears to be an aggressive interference of Western powers in Africa affairs should not be dismissed out of hand. In fact, Mbeki’s statement highlights and reprimands the European and Western intervention in African affairs, and in so doing he captures with precision the historical context and the continuing troubling colonial legacy that Africa has found itself in. Mbeki reminds us that: (i) ‘Recent events, as in Libya and Cf4te d’Ivoire, have confirmed that the major Western powers remain interested and determined to attach Africa to themselves as their appendage, at all costs, ready to use all means to achieve this objective;(ii) to realise this objective, these powers will exploit the universal commitment to democracy, human rights and good governance to intervene in any and all our countries to advance their interests…’In ‘Decolonizing the Mind’, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o reminds us that this ‘contention started a hundred years ago [perhaps longer than that] when in 1884 the capitalist powers of Europe sat in Berlin and carved an entire continent with multiplicity of peoples, cultures and languages into different colonies’. He further argues that, ‘it seems it is the fate of Africa to have her destiny always decided around conference tables in the metropolises of the western world…’ In contrast, Europe adopted the tenets of non-intervention in the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, and the EU has evolved a shared sovereignity – but by agreement of member states. However, now we have ‘the new Scramble for Africa’ as defined by Matthew Parris, and we see that although the West believes in self-determination, it does not extend this fundamental privilege to Africa. It is not difficult to understand the fact that, Africa continues to suffer heavily, because of the western manipulation and exploitation of its resources. There is no need for me to give examples, because hsiroty and the unfolding of recent occurrences have already done so. Perhaps, it is in this context that both Mbeki and Parris envisage this notion of ‘recolonisation’. When European and Western powers continue to ignore Africa’s rights to self-determination, it seems these ‘powers’ have not forsaken their colonial ambitions, and hence I find Mbeki's critique to be accurate in this regard. Threats, military interference, exploitation of natural resources and undermining African institutions and governments by European and Western powers sounds very much like the colonial model to me and thus, the notion the ‘re-colonisation of Africa’ cannot be easily dismissed. What is the rationale for continued interference? Why is Africa always an easy target? We should all take a collective stand and strongly condemn this pattern of interference. Indeed, it would be shocking for African Commonwealth countries to send operatives to London to confront the current administration because it had failed to protect citizens during the recent riots. Or for English and South African troops to occupy Washington to ensure passage of the health reform act because 45,000 uninsured citizens were dying each year from lack of medical care. The West often finds itself impatient with Africa, but African diplomacy is different. It is based on a deep respect for individual’s human dignity and maintaining community. Leaders will publicly stand together but privately sort out issues quite harshly. It is deeply rooted in the spirit of ‘Ubuntu’, meaning you are who you are, because of the humanity of others. It is this humanity that seems to be lacking in the European and Western world. This new century calls on humanity to sing a new song of ‘Ubuntu’ and brotherhood, it calls for the people and nations of the world to stand against what appears to be an abuse of power by international institutions, it calls for new imaginings where Africa can no longer be treated as a subordinate of the European and Western powers, but as an equal partner in resolving the problems that affect our globalizing world.Mbeki's proposal is that we Africans must ‘develop our own capacity to resolve our conflicts, committed to find African solutions to African problems, in much the same way that, for instance, the Europeans insist, correctly, that they have the right to arrive at European solutions to European problems, as do the people of the United States of America with regard to their problems…’ and in arguing so, he thus captures the essence of Africa’s Renaissance.There is a greatest human cause, to which we must all respond, the respect for human dignity and freedom of others. President, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela reminds us that ‘For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.’ Let us therefore make a collective pledge to live in a way that will help us recognize the humanity of others. This we can achieve in our lifetime. I would like to commend you on your very interesting observations and must also convey the fact that it challenged me to think differently. Wandile Goozen Kasibe is doing his Masters in Museums Studies at Leicester University in Leicester

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