Simone Gbagbo, ‘Iron Lady’ Of Cote d’Ivore

Former Ivory Coast first lady Simone Gbagbo (C), who had been serving a 20-year jail term, gestures as she arrives at her home after she was released, two days after being amnestied on August 8, 2018 in Abidjan. ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP

 

Ivory Coast’s “Iron Lady” Simone Gbagbo basked in her role as the power behind the throne during her husband’s regime, but to foes, she was a pitiless killer.

Fervently Christian but ruthless by reputation, she never sought to deny exercising political influence after her husband Laurent Gbagbo rose to power in 2000 elections.

“All the ministers respect me, and they often consider me above them. I’ve got what it takes to be a minister,” she told the French news weekly l’Express in 2001, justifying her stance after a life she said had been dedicated to activism.

“I engaged in political struggle against the former regime alongside men. I spent six months in prison, I was beaten, molested, left for dead. After all those trials, it’s logical that people don’t mess with me.”

She was released from prison on Wednesday in an amnesty, three years into a 20-year sentence for “endangering state security” for her role in the political violence that claimed some 3,000 lives after her husband lost a bitter 2010 presidential election.

The couple were arrested in April 2011 by forces loyal to President Alassane Ouattara during a French-backed military operation, after five months of fighting.

She was accused of actively supporting Laurent Gbagbo in his bid to keep power, the culmination of a turbulent decade in office.

He has been in detention at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague for seven years.

 ‘Blood Lady’ 

Born in the predominantly Christian south in 1949 as one of 18 children of a policeman, she studied linguistics and history before becoming a trade union activist.

Her militancy led to a jail term in the 1970s for openly criticising then-president Felix Houphouet-Boigny — Ivory Coast’s first leader after independence from France in 1960 — when he rejected opposition calls for multi-party elections.

She and Laurent Gbagbo married in 1989 after founding the opposition socialist Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), and she was later elected to parliament in the world’s leading cocoa producer.

Her husband sought to change relations with former colonial master Paris, arguing that previous regimes had been servile, and the first lady proved a fierce critic of “neo-colonialism”, once famously describing France’s former president Nicolas Sarkozy — the main mover in her husband’s downfall — as “the devil”.

Supporters of Simone Gbagbo’s commitment to political causes hailed her as “the Hillary Clinton of the tropics”.

But for detractors, the “Iron Lady” became the “Blood Lady”, amid allegations by human rights activists that the regime used teams of killers to deal with opponents.

Those concerns were reinforced when she was implicated by a French judicial inquiry into the sinister disappearance of French-Canadian journalist Guy-Andre Kieffer in Ivory Coast in 2004.

Gbagbo frequently mingled politics with the evangelical faith she practised after “miraculously” surviving a car crash and starting prayer meetings at the presidential palace.

AFP

Cote d’Ivore Frees Ex-First Lady Simone Gbagbo After Amnesty

Ivory Coast’s former first lady Simone Gbagbo waves at her supporters as she arrives at Abidjan’s courthouse prior to the opening hearing of her trial over charges of crimes against humanity for her alleged role in the 2010 electoral violence. ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP

 

Former Ivory Coast first lady Simone Gbagbo, who had been serving a 20-year jail term, was released on Wednesday, two days after being amnestied by President Alassane Ouattara, her lawyer said.

Gbagbo, 69, left the gendarmerie academy in Abidjan where she had been held for seven years, said attorney Blede Dohore. She was expected to head to her home in the district of Cocody, where around a thousand supporters were preparing to welcome her.

AFP

Cote d’Ivore Grants Amnesty To Ex-President Gbagbo’s Wife, Others

 Ivory Coast’s former first lady Simone Gbagbo waves at her supporters as she arrives at Abidjan’s courthouse prior to the opening hearing of her trial over charges of crimes against humanity for her alleged role in the 2010 electoral violence. ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP

 

Ivory Coast’s former first lady, Simone Gbagbo, who is serving a 20-year jail term, will be freed on Wednesday after President Alassane Ouattara granted her an amnesty, her lawyer said on Tuesday.

The wife of former president Laurent Gbagbo has spent seven years behind bars for her role in a wave of political violence that claimed several thousand lives in 2010-11.

On the eve of independence day, Ouattara had on Monday announced an amnesty for Simone Gbagbo, 69, and around 800 others in the name of national reconciliation.

Her attorney, Rodrigue Dadje, told AFP she would be “released tomorrow after the judicial formalities have been completed.”

She was “delighted to learn the news of her release,” Dadje said.

Simone Gbagbo, who was first detained without trial after her arrest in 2011, was convicted for “endangering state security” and sentenced in 2015.

She had been implicated in the 2011 shelling of a market in an Abidjan district that supported Ouattara and for belonging to a “crisis cell” that allegedly coordinated attacks by the armed forces and militias in support of her husband.

Laurent Gbagbo has been in detention at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague for seven years. He has been on trial since 2016 for alleged crimes against humanity.

In February 2012, the ICC also issued a warrant for Simone Gbagbo’s arrest. But in 2016, Ouattara said he would “no longer send” Ivorian nationals to the court, as the country now had a “functioning justice system.”

 Electoral commission reform welcomed 

About 3,000 people died in the turmoil that erupted in Abidjan — once one of Africa’s most cosmopolitan cities — after presidential elections in November 2010 when Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept defeat to Ouattara, his bitter rival, after a decade in power.

The conflict left a legacy of political friction that endures today. The lack of national reconciliation has been seen by many observers as the biggest mark against Ouattara’s record.

The Gbagbos remain well-liked within the Ivorian Popular Front, the party they co-founded in the 1980s which has since split into two factions.

“This is a big step towards reconciliation. But we should go further with the release of soldiers and Laurent Gbagbo, who remains the crucial element for reconciliation,” said Georges Armand Ouegnin, president of the opposition coalition Together for Democracy and Sovereignty.

The president also announced a reform of the Independent Electoral Commission, which has come under fire for being unequal.

The commission is currently made up of eight members representing the government and four representing the opposition.

Civil society organisations welcomed the move which they said would ease political tensions, with local polls due in October and a presidential election in 2020.

Ouattara said he hoped “the next elections would be inclusive and without violence”.

Among others granted amnesties were former defence minister Lida Kouassi — a key Gbagbo ally — who was sentenced this year to 15 years for conspiracy, and former construction minister Assoa Adou, jailed in 2017 for four years.

Around 500 of those named have already been released provisionally from detention, the president said. They will have their criminal records erased.

The other 300 will be released “soon”, he added, without giving any dates.

AFP

Cote D’Ivoire’s President Grants Simone Gbagbo Amnesty

President of Cote d’Ivoire, Alassane Ouattara

 

Cote d’Ivoire’s President Alassane Ouattara on Monday announced amnesties for around 800 people, including former first lady Simone Gbagbo who is currently behind bars, in the name of national reconciliation.

Last week, Cote d’Ivoire’s Supreme Court overturned an earlier acquittal granted to Gbagbo for crimes against humanity.

The wife of former president Laurent Gbagbo, in power from 2000 to 2010, will “soon be freed,” Ouattara said during a televised address to the West African nation on the eve of the country’s independence day.

Simone Gbagbo has been serving a 20-year sentence handed to her in 2015 for “endangering state security”.

In this file photo taken on May 9, 2016, Ivory Coast’s former first lady Simone Gbagbo waves at her supporters as she arrives at Abidjan’s courthouse prior to the opening hearing of her trial over charges of crimes against humanity for her alleged role in the 2010 electoral violence. 
ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP

 

Laurent Gbagbo has been in detention at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague for seven years.

Since 2016, he has been tried for alleged crimes against humanity during post-election unrest in 2010.

Among the others granted amnesties by Ouattara on Monday were former defence minister Lida Kouassi — a key ally of Laurent Gbagbo — who was sentenced this year to 15 years for conspiracy, and former construction minister Assoa Adou, jailed in 2017 for four years.

“On Monday I signed an amnesty order that will benefit about 800 citizens prosecuted or sentenced for offences related to the post-election crisis of 2010 or state security offences committed after May 21, 2011, (the date of Ouattara’s inauguration),” the president said in his address.

Around 500 of those named have already been released provisionally from detention, he added. They will have their criminal records erased.

The other 300 will be released “soon”, he added, without giving any dates.

The question of national reconciliation in Cote d’Ivoire, or the lack of it, has been seen by observers as a black mark against Ouattara.

About 3,000 people died in the turmoil that swept Abidjan — once one of Africa’s most cosmopolitan cities — in the aftermath of the November 2010 presidential polls when Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept defeat to bitter rival Ouattara.

AFP

Ivory Coast Ex-first Lady Goes On Trial For War Crimes

ivory coastIvory Coast’s former first lady, Simone Gbagbo, went on trial on Tuesday, accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes for her alleged role in a civil war that followed a 2010 presidential election and left around 3,000 people dead.

The trial, the West African nation’s first for crimes against humanity, is being held in a domestic court after the government rejected her extradition to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

It has already drawn criticism from Gbagbo’s supporters, who claim it is politically motivated, as well as from rights groups, who accuse the prosecution of rushing the investigation.

Her husband, ex-president Laurent Gbagbo, is already before the ICC on charges linked to the brief conflict, which was sparked by his refusal to accept defeat to Alassane Ouattara in an election run-off.

Flanked by policemen, Simone Gbagbo, a key figure in her husband’s regime, greeted several dozen cheering supporters gathered at the entrance of the court in the commercial capital Abidjan with waves and smiles.

The prosecution alleges she was part of a small group of party officials from Gbagbo’s Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) that planned violence against Ouattara’s supporters to keep him out of power.

“The FPI put in place a crisis cell in January 2011 that met at the presidential residence and constituted the organ charged with planning and organising the repression,” an indictment read in court stated.

Simone Gbagbo did not immediately enter a plea on Tuesday. However, the indictment said she rejected the charges and denied the existence of a crisis cell at the presidency.

As each witness’s name was read in court, she turned in her seat, scanning the gallery.

Cote D’Ivoire Court Jails Former First Lady for 20 years

Simone GbagboThe former first lady of Cote D’Ivoire, Simone Gbagbo, has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for her role in a 2011 post-election crisis in which around 3,000 people were killed.

Gbagbo, who is also wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), was tried with 82 other allies of former President Laurent Gbagbo.

General Bruno Dogbo Ble, who headed the elite republican guard, and former navy chief Admiral Vagba Faussignaux were also each jailed for 20 years, their lawyer said, while others including the ex-president’s son Michel got shorter sentences.

Supporters of Laurent Gbagbo, whose refusal to acknowledge his defeat by Alassane Ouattara in elections in 2010 sparked a brief civil war, claimed the trial was politically motivated.

Simone Gbagbo’s lawyer, Rodrigue Dadje, told Reuters she had been found guilty of crimes including disturbing the peace, organising armed gangs and undermining state security

He said they would appeal against the verdict by the end of the week, adding: “She is keeping her morale up since she was more or less expecting this.”

Her sentence, handed down in the early hours of Tuesday by a six-member jury after nine hours of deliberations, was longer than the 10 years requested by the state prosecutor. Her civil rights will also be suspended for 10 years, Dadje said.

Crimes Against Ivorian State

Laurent Gbagbo is awaiting trial at the ICC accused of crimes against humanity. Cote D’Ivoire refused to transfer Simone Gbagbo to The Hague to face similar charges, arguing that she could receive a fair trial in a domestic court.

An ICC spokesman said her conviction in Cote D’Ivoire would not affect the case before the world court, which he said would continue to seek her extradition by Ouattara’s government.

“Ms Gbagbo was convicted only of crimes against the Ivorian state, not for the killings, rape and crimes against humanity for which she is to be tried by the ICC,” New York-based rights campaigner Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

Pascal Affi N’Guessan, president of Gbagbo’s Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) party and seen as a potential candidate to challenge President Ouattara in elections this year, was handed an 18-month sentence.

But, credited with time served, he was freed, as were nine ex-government ministers and four journalists who had been among dozens of Gbagbo’s allies arrested after the violence in 2011.

Simone Gbagbo said on Monday prosecutors had insulted and humiliated her while failing to prove her guilt.
“I’m prepared to forgive. I forgive because, if we don’t forgive, this country will burn,” she said.

Though praised for his stewardship of Cote D’Ivoire’s post-war recovery, Ouattara has been accused by human rights groups of pursuing one-sided justice against his former rivals while ignoring abuses committed by his own supporters.

In the commercial capital Abidjan, reaction was divided, with some calling for the release of Simone Gbagbo and the other defendants as a gesture towards national reconciliation.

Ivory Coast’s Former First Lady, Simone Gbagbo, Jailed

gbabo_jailIvory Coast’s former first lady, Simone Gbagbo, has been sentenced to 20 years in jail for her role in the violence that followed the 2010 elections.

Gbagbo had been charged with undermining state security.

Her husband, former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo, is awaiting trial at the International Criminal Court.

More than 3,000 people died in the violence that followed the presidential poll after the ex-leader refused to accept defeat to Alassane Ouattara.

She and her husband were arrested in 2011 after troops stormed a bunker where the pair had taken refuge in the main city, Abidjan.

And it was in the same city where Gbagbo – once called the “Iron Lady” – faced trial. She was also accused of disturbing public order and organising armed gangs.

The court unanimously sentenced her to 20 years, twice as long as the prosecutors had asked for.

Her daughter, Marie Antoinette Singleton, told the BBC the sentence was unfair and a sign of “political justice”.

“Why would you want to double it? It’s not about justice, it’s about getting rid of political adversaries.”

“If we say that something wrong happened, it happened on both sides. Nobody looked into bringing all responsible parties to trial,” she said.

Simone Gbagbo’s lawyer said they would appeal.

Laurent Gbagbo, is facing four charges at the ICC in The Hague, including murder, rape and persecution.

The ICC had issued an arrest warrant for Simone Gbagbo too, but this was dismissed by the Ivorian government.

Court Stays Judgement On Gbagbo’s Family House Arrest

The ECOWAS court sitting in Abuja has stayed judgement on the house arrest of Simone and Michelle Gbagbo; wife and son of former president of Cote d Ivoire; Laurent Gbagbo.

However the presiding judge, Justice Nougbode Medegan while delivering the lead judgement agreed with the counsel to the defendants that the rights of both mother and son have been violated on several counts.

She listed unlawful house arrest and detentions as some of the violations.

However, the court could not pass any substantial judgement since the international criminal court is currently investigating Gbagbo’s wife; Simone and a national case is also in place against the son Michelle, both for human rights abuses.

Meanwhile Laurent Gbagbo has been transferred to The Hague where his case will be decided.

Following the 2010 presidential elections, Gbagbo challenged the vote count citing fraud.

His refusal to step aside for the recognized winner Alassane Ouatarra led to major crises in the country.