In Ivory Coast, the very long restitution of the bodies of victims of the post-electoral crisis of 2010-2011

The seven victims of "the Abobo women's killing" received their first official tribute thirteen years, to the day, after their death, on March 3, 2011, on a roundabout in this town north of Abidjan

In Ivory Coast, the very long restitution of the bodies of victims of the post-electoral crisis of 2010-2011

The seven victims of "the Abobo women's killing" received their first official tribute thirteen years, to the day, after their death, on March 3, 2011, on a roundabout in this town north of Abidjan. These supporters of the current Ivorian head of state, Alassane Ouattara, then gathered to demonstrate against Laurent Gbagbo who refused to recognize his defeat in the election held three months earlier. Abidjan had not yet become a battlefield between forces supporting the outgoing president and his rival, but was already the scene of a localized insurrection in Abobo.

“The invisible commando” then claimed its first feats of arms, harassing the security forces who remained loyal to Laurent Gbagbo. It was in this context that the latter were accused of having opened fire on unarmed women. The exact circumstances have never been clarified, the culprits have never been convicted by the courts and the parents of the victims are still waiting for the bodies to be returned.

During the ceremony, several ministers paid tribute to the survivors and families of the invited victims, before laying the first stone of a memorial dedicated to the seven "martyrs", in the words of Kouadio Konan Bertin, the former minister of national reconciliation. The first in a series of steles which must also be erected in Yopougon, another commune of Abidjan, and in several towns in the west, to promote peace and living together as the 2025 presidential election approaches. .

“Your blood,” he exclaimed, “will have been the fertile soil on which today’s modern and prosperous Ivory Coast grows.” Mr. Konan Bertin also discussed the presidential pardon granted on February 22 to 51 prisoners, soldiers and civilians imprisoned during the political crises experienced since 2010-2011. In particular, that offered to General Brunot Dogbo Blé, boss of the Republican Guard under Laurent Gbagbo, convicted of several assassinations. “We can ask ourselves: “Why give freedom to our executioners of yesterday?” “, pretended to question the former minister. But whoever comes out of the polls becomes the representative of all Ivorians, including his enemies, those who fought him yesterday. »

“Thirteen years to hand over bodies is absurd! »

The two most anticipated announcements were those of the Minister for Youth Promotion, Mamadou Touré, and his colleague in solidarity and the fight against poverty, Belmonde Dogo. The first revealed that President Ouattara and Senate President Kandia Camara granted aid of 12 million CFA francs (some 18,000 euros) to the parents of the victims. The second promised that “in the days and weeks to come, we will have the bodies handed over to the parents in Duékoué and Abidjan.” When ? What remains will be handed over?

The first should be those of the seven women from Abobo, kept at the main morgue in Abidjan, Ivosep. Their case remained sensitive for a long time. After the killing, on March 3, 2011, supporters of Laurent Gbagbo denounced a montage by Alassane Ouattara's camp after the broadcast of an amateur video showing supposed victims, lying on the ground, getting up after the cameras passed. According to them, it was a matter of finding pretexts to prevent the regime in place from defending itself and preparing its translation before international justice. However, the seven victims have since been identified. Their names were Rokia Gnon Ouattara, Massiani Bamba, Ami Coulibaly, Malon Sylla, Adjallah Touré, Fatoumata Coulibaly and Moyamou Koné. But the rumor persists, reinforced by impunity on this issue.

“Thirteen years to hand over bodies, when there was no prior legal procedure [which could have justified their retention], it’s absurd! », protests Alexandre Willy Neth, member of the Ivorian League for Human Rights (Lidho) and program manager at the Africa Office of the International Federation for Human Rights. Military justice held a trial in 2015 for the murder of the seven women which ended in a dismissal. But none was organized by civil justice. Disclosing the autopsy reports on this occasion would however have made it possible to identify the causes of death and the origin of the shooting, while “without a trial and without a body,” regrets Mr. Neth, “the situation can only fuel accusations of staging.” “The only way to reestablish the truth,” he insists, “is to present these contradictory accounts in court. »

In her speech, the Minister of Solidarity also mentioned the case of Duékoué, a “martyr town” in western Ivory Coast, the scene on March 29 and 30, 2011 of the worst massacre of the post-electoral crisis. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) announced a death toll of more than 800 victims. The UN Mission in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI) for its part recorded 330 deaths, "most" killed by the forces supporting the victory of Alassane Ouattara during their conquest of the city.

Victims of the post-election crisis demand fairness

Tens of thousands of people then found refuge at the Catholic mission, then in the Nahibly camp, on the outskirts of Duékoué. Temporary refuge: accused of sheltering pro-Gbagbo militiamen, this camp was destroyed in July 2012 by part of the population under the complicit gaze of the armed forces. The peacekeepers had turned a blind eye. The bodies of six young men were found three months later in a mass grave in Toguehi, not far away. Exhumed and stored in Abidjan, they should be returned to the families soon, according to a former member of a human rights association which formed a civil stake in this matter.

The fate of the victims of Duékoué, buried in mass graves or thrown into wells, is pending while several exhumation operations of victims of the post-electoral crisis of 2010-2011 have been carried out throughout the territory. , particularly in the Abidjan district between April and December 2013, under the coordination of the special investigation unit. Seventy-four sites were then excavated and 235 bodies exhumed, nearly three-quarters of which were in the commune of Yopougon.

“Almost all of the graves and mass graves in Yopougon have been opened and the bodies returned,” reports the former human rights defender. Significant means were implemented in exhumations and forensic medicine to identify bodies by clothing or DNA analysis. » No new exhumations are on the agenda. “The bodies lying in the mass graves of Duékoué are the deaths of a single camp,” she explains. To exhume them and take a census of them would be to give reality to this massacre. » Most of the former military leaders from the former rebellion in Duékoué were briefly worried during the investigations, before benefiting from an amnesty in December 2018 and returning to their posts a few months later within the security forces national.

Beyond the sole question of bodies, it is fairness that the victims of the post-electoral crisis are still demanding. “Two camps clashed, we must satisfy both,” maintains Lassina Kanté, president of the board of directors of the Confederation of Organizations of Victims of Ivorian Crises. If he welcomes the return of former President Laurent Gbagbo and his minister Charles Blé Goudé or the pardon granted to 51 prisoners as “strong gestures” from Alassane Ouattara, he recalls that “the most important thing is the victims , product of political violence of the past”. “Even if it is painful, we must confront this past to truly move toward reconciliation,” insists Mr. Kanté.