The former president of Ivory Coast, Laurent Gbagbo, was transferred to the International Criminal Court (ICC). He’s suspected of being an indirect perpetrator of crimes against humanity committed by his forces during the post-election period, from December 2010 to April 2011. This transfer to the ICC has important implications not only for Ivory Coast but also for Africa.
Following Gbagbo’s transfer, the FPI, Laurent Gbagbo’s party, did boycott the legislative elections this Sunday, December 11. The FPI’s activists were encouraged not to vote. Previously, Prime Minister Guillaume Soro had already said that the leaders of the FPI had worsened the situation of Laurent Gbagbo by their refusal to participate in government, legislatives elections and their willingness to stay out of the reconciliation process promoted by the new Ivorian power.
Furthermore, the ICC must investigate all crimes against humanity not to appear as “victor’s justice”. Rebel forces that supported President Ouattara are also suspected of committing crimes against humanity. The question is whether Alassane Ouattara will have the courage to let some of his supporters appear before the ICC. The precedent of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is interesting. President Joseph Kabila’s forces like those of his opponent Jean-Pierre Bemba committed crimes, but only the loser (Jean-Pierre Bemba) ended up before the ICC. If the DRC scenario was to recur, African public opinion will then have the conviction that the ICC is a “punishment” reserved for losers. The credibility of international justice is at stake.
Finally the responsibility of African judges is also in question. Why send these powerful politicians to The Hague instead of Abidjan and Kinshasa? Because too often African judges are seen as servants of power, at the expense of justice. Clearly crises and armed conflicts don’t offer the serenity necessary for the proper course of justice. However, note that the French had judged themselves Nazi collaborators at the end of World War II. It’s time for African judges to take their responsibilities.
Wendy N’guia Kahma
Wendy is an African History Phd student at the University of Paris I Pantheon-Sorbonne.