Give us Simone Gbagbo, International Criminal Court tells Ivory Coast

Give us Simone Gbagbo, International Criminal Court tells Ivory Coast

(Reporting from Abidjan). Simone Ehivet Gbagbo, wife of former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo, is ‘badly’ wanted in the Hague by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“A warrant of arrest against Mrs Gbagbo was issued in November last year, and we are waiting for Ivorian authorities to hand her over to us, or tell us if they are encountering difficulties to do so,” Pascal Turlan, an advisor in the office of ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensounda said in an interview published yesterday in the Abidjan-based newspaper L’Expression.

The ICC wants to put Gbagbo’s wife in the dock for alleged crimes against humanity committed during the 2011 post-electoral violence. Her husband Laurent is currently languishing in the Hague cell, waiting to hear his fate.

Many observers said 64-year-old Simone, an intelligent woman, was behind all the ‘executive decisions’ taken by her husband during his 11-year rule in this West African nation of 22 million people.

Simone is now locked up with some 83 pro-Gbagbo cronies for various ‘crimes’ committed before and during the 2011 post-electoral violence. Charges against them were confirmed last week by an Ivorian court, meaning they will stand trial at home in the near future.

But the ICC wants Simone to be sent to the Hague as soon as possible. The government of Alassane Ouattara, however, seems to be dragging its feet over the extradition, saying that it was studying the court’s request.

Tension has been mounting in the Gbagbo camp here in Ivory Coast, with supporters of the Front Populaire Ivorien (FPI, Gbagbo’s political party) vowing to ‘burn’ the country if  Simone or any other pro-Gbagbo crony is ever extradited to the Netherlands-based court. Simone was vice-president of FPI.

“This country will be on fire if Ouattara sends Mrs Gbagbo to the Hague,” a man identified only as Oupo told Moon of the South yesterday. “Besides, we don’t recognise this Ouattara as the head of state because our president is there in jail at the ICC, he’s an innocent man and he must released,” the shouting man said.

An uneasy calm currently reigns in Abidjan and other cities despite life returning to normal. Ivory Coast remains highly divided along ethnic and political lines since Gbagbo was ‘mysteriously’ extradited to the Hague, and national reconciliation remains elusive two years after the end of the crisis.

Ouattara recently urged the FPI to come to the negotiation table, and consequently apologise to the nation for ‘behaving badly’ during its 11-year-rule. But the Gbagbo camp immediately rejected these peace advances, saying the real criminals were Ouattara and his team.

More than 3000 people were killed during the 2011 post-electoral violence, local media reports said.  Both camps continue to point the finger at each other for these ‘massacres’.

Turlan said the ICC was busy conducting investigations about these incidents.  “As soon as we have the necessary information on these crimes, we won’t hesitate to issue more warrants of arrest,” he was quoted by L’Expression as saying.

The other possible candidate to the ICC is ‘Street General’ Charles Blé Goudé, a die-hard supporter of Gbagbo and former youth and sports minister.

ICC prosecutor Bensouda is expected to arrive today in Abidjan, and rumours are rife in the commercial capital that she is coming to negotiate Simone and Goudé’s extradition to the Hague.

Photo. Laurent and Simone Gbagbo, during happy times.

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