By Daouda Coulibaly
Ivory Coast’s “trial of the century” is now in its third week. The former president Laurent Gbagbo and his minister Charles Blé Goudé are on trial at the International Criminal Court for their alleged involvement in Ivory Coast’s post-election violence in 2010-2011, which left over 3000 people dead.
The first witnesses have been called to give evidence about the march on Cocody and the attack on Abobo, both neighbourhoods in the economic capital, Abidjan.
The trial of the two men at the ICC seems to be the least of people’s worries in the Siaka Kone market in Abobo, a stronghold of the incumbent Ivorian president, Alassane Ouattara. The market was hit by several shells during the post-election crisis, which pitted Gbagbo and Ouattara supporters
There are swarms of people at the entrance to the market. The sounds of noisy, honking mini-vans mix with the shrill cries of market hawkers trying to attract the attention of potential buyers. Even where the shells hit, people are going about their usual business despite the fact that the traces of the shells are still visible on a rusty red gate.
In the courtyard, the Diaby family’s 14-inch TV is on, but no one is looking at it. People here don’t dare watch the trial of the century. “I suffer from high blood pressure”, says Mrs. Diaby who’s in her fifties. “I don’t want to die and leave my children behind to suffer. Their father did not have as much luck as me.”
Mrs. Diaby vividly remembers the day the shells hit the courtyard where she lives. With a lump in her throat and in a shaky voice, she recalls “that day, the shells exploded. 12 people were killed on the spot, including my husband.” Mrs. Diaby believes that Laurent Gbagbo’s defence team is denying the victims’ stories. Its arguments are an insult to those who were killed, she says. “This courtyard is full of young orphans. If that’s not proof, I don’t know what else the defence team needs.”
A few kilometres away, Fabien Ya is sitting behind his computer, watching the Gbagbo trial. He’s religiously followed both sides’ arguments. He doesn’t want to miss a single second of the proceedings. For him, the trial is an opportunity for all Ivoirians to discover once and for all what really happened during the 2010 crisis.
The student has followed the trial closely for days now but says he’s disappointed. “After two years of investigations”, says Ya, “I don’t think the prosecutor was very convincing in presenting her case”. He campaigned for Gbagbo and was a member of Blé Goudé’s Young Patriots movement. He doesn’t understand why only these two men are on trial at the ICC. “After having heard the prosecutor, the victims’ lawyer and the defence, I’m confused. I don’t understand why in a conflict that had two opposing sides, only one side is on trial.”
Ya doesn’t hide his anger and sadness about what he considers to be an injustice. He accuses the ICC of being biased. “I’m seeing that the ICC is about meting out justice to one category of people. It’s not a judicial court but a political court.”
The trial, which was designed to reveal the truth and bring about reconciliation between Ivorians, appears to be separating them further from each other. Five years after the serious crisis which rocked Ivory Coast, it’s becoming clear that the trial of Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé could deepen the divide between warring brothers.
- Opening day: accusing Gbagbo, tut-tting Bensouda
- First day of former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo’s trial as seen in Abidjan
- High drama in the Gbagbo case at the ICC
Lead image: Supporters of former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo watch the first day of his trial at the ICC in Abidjan (Photo: Legnan Doula/AFP)
Daouda Coulibaly is an Ivorian journalist and blogger based in Abidjan.