President Gbagbo identified his predecessor General Guei as the instigator of the first violence in October which, according to FPI officials, had claimed the lives of sixty of its supporters.118 In an address broadcast on October 25, 2000, on state radio and television, he said: "I bow respectfully to the memory of the dead, those who lost their lives as a result of General Guei's barbarous order to shoot."119 Despite this and other similar statements, there has been no official investigation into the actions of then President Guei, Red Brigade leader Sergeant Boka Yapi, or any other members of the security forces who, under Guei's command, perpetrated serious violations against unarmed civilians.
Instead, on November 13, 2000, President Gbagbo held a surprise meeting with General Guei in the capital Yamoussoukro, in which Guei called on soldiers to put themselves at the service of the state and Gbagbo indirectly granted him immunity, saying "What is important is that the country starts a process of reconciliation.... I am not a policeman, nor a judge. I am happy with his [Guei's] declaration."120 However, there was strong criticism of this meeting, and on November 21, 2000, Defense Minister Moise Lida Kouassi asserted that Guei did not have immunity from prosecution. He said the earlier meeting had been held to "solve a number of internal security problems.... The meeting does not mean impunity for General Guei. The government will let judicial procedures run their course."121
After the bodies of fifty-seven young men were discovered in the Charnier de Yopougon, the government pledged to find and punish the killers. At the scene, newly appointed Interior Minister Emile Boga Dougou said, "Our reaction is one of indignation. I had never thought that barbarity could reach such levels.... Those guilty will be punished, wherever they come from."122 Meanwhile the RDR asked for an international inquiry. RDR leader Ouattara said the dead men were Muslim northerners and accused members of the paramilitary gendarmes of being responsible.123
President Gbagbo pledged to conduct three official judicial investigations into the October violence: the first into the Charnier de Yopougon, the second into the killing of eighteen men whose bodies were found floating in the Ébrié Lagoon, and the third into the killing of at least six men found slaughtered within Blokosso neighborhood.
Both domestically and abroad, a trial in the case of the Charnier de Yopougon was seen as a test for both Gbagbo's ability to stand up to the military, and his commitment to restore the rule of law. A guilty verdict was also interpreted as a requirement for the restoration of badly needed financial aid.124 On April 13, 2001, six gendarmes were charged with murder in connection with the massacre of the Charnier de Yopougon.125 One of the six was the commander of the Gendarme Camp of Abobo, Major Be Kpan who, while a captain at the time of the October events, was subsequently promoted. Two more gendarmes were later charged and on July 24, 2001 the trial before a military tribunal of the eight gendarmes began inside the Agban Gendarme Camp. However, the prosecution's case was seriously weakened by the failure to conduct ballistics tests on bullets found in the bodies, and of the failure of several key witnesses to show up, including two survivors of the massacre, allegedly because of fears for their safety. During the trial, a lawyer for the victims' families, Ibrahima Doumbia said, "The witnesses don't feel secure. And without them, I don't think this trial will establish the truth."126 During the trial, defense lawyer Banti Kakou implied impunity for the gendarmes was a requirement for stability in the Côte d'Ivoire by saying, "[b]y convicting them, you would needlessly undermine morale in the gendarmerie and therefore in Côte d'Ivoire."127 All eight gendarmes maintained their innocence: Major Be Kpan said, "My men did not fire at any time," and defendant Sergeant Nguessan Ble said, "I was surprised even to hear about the killings."128 On August 3, 2001, all eight gendarmes were acquitted by Judge Delli Sepleu, who ruled that the prosecutors had failed to produce any evidence directly linking the gendarmes to the killings.129
Meanwhile, there was little international pressure to press for investigations or trials into the other hundreds of serious human rights violations committed against civilians during the October and December 2001 election periods. The results of the only other two official judicial investigation, into the case of eighteen bodies found in the Ébrié Lagoon and the killings in Blokosso, have yet to be made public.
After the October wave of state sponsored violence, and the ensuing wave of national and international condemnation, President Gbagbo could have made a serious effort to investigate and bring the perpetrators of atrocities to justice. In so doing he would have sent a clear message that the violence seen during the October election period would not be tolerated by his regime. However, his interventions were limited to the promise of investigations and other apparently token gestures - and the renewed violence in December, including the systematic torture of detainees, suggested no serious efforts were made to establish accountability.
President Gbagbo ordered no special judicial investigations into the December violence. However, responding to allegations of sexual abuse within the National Police Academy in the days prior to the December parliamentary elections, President Gbagbo requested that the Ministry of the Interior conduct an investigation. The December investigation concluded that while three rapes had been perpetrated by civilians in front of the paramilitary gendarmes, no rape had occurred within the National Police Academy.130
The very limited scope of this investigation, and the use of a definition of sexual abuse restricted to penetration of a vagina by a penis, undermined its credibility. While several women victims interviewed by Human Rights Watch said they were not technically raped within the National Police Academy, they nonetheless suffered other forms of serious sexual abuse. The actions of the security forces within other detention facilities, or indeed on the grounds of the technical institute, were not investigated.
On December 11, 2000, Interior Minister Emile Boga Doudou responded to allegations of rape and other forms of torture made by the Ivorian Movement for Human Rights. He effectively justified sexual abuse by the security forces, implying that if members of the security forces are attacked, women become legitimate targets for sexual and other forms of abuse.131
The government made several symbolic gestures to try to ease domestic tension and deflect international criticism. On October 31, 2000, President Gbagbo set up a twenty-three member mediation body to promote national reconciliation. The committee, headed by Mathias Ekra, who had been the "national mediator," or ombudsman, under Bédié, also included Muslim and Christian leaders, academics, traditional chiefs, and armed forces chief General Mathias Doue. November 9, 2000, was declared a national day of mourning for those killed in the October violence.
At this writing no member of the security forces has been arrested or convicted in connection with any serious violation committed during either the October or December waves of election violence. However, two brothers accused of the October 26, 2000 killing of Gendarme Lt. Nyobo N'Guessan were arrested in November 2000 and are currently in custody in the MACA prison in Yopougon. The first brother, who was captured on November 18, 2000, told Human Rights Watch he was threatened with summary execution if he failed to reveal the work place of the second brother. Following the arrest of the second brother, both claimed to have been threatened with death and forced to confess to the killing.132
118 "Ivory Coast People Sweep Gbagbo to Power, 60 Dead," Reuters, October 25, 2000.
119 "Gbagbo Addresses Ivorian Nation," www.bbc.co.uk, October 25, 2000.
120 "Guei Comes Out of Hiding," www.bbc.co.uk, November 13, 2000.
121 "Guei May Face Charges," www.bbc.co.uk, November 21, 2000.
122 "Ivory Coast to Probe Massacre, Ethnic Tension High," Reuters, October 28, 2000.
123 "Ivory Coast to Probe Massacre, Punish the Guilty," Reuters, October 28, 2000.
124 "High Stakes for Gbagbo in Ivorian Massacre Trial," Reuters, August 1, 2001.
125 The other seven gendarmes charged are Staff Sergeant Irié Bi Ba Célestin, Sergeant N'Guessan Blé Nicaise, Sergeant Seri Doukadji, Sergeant Wodié Hervé Joel, Sergeant Naza Yao Jacques, Tra Bi Tohola Rufin, and Yoro Dasiehond Alexis Le Sauveur.
126 "High stakes for Gbagbo in Ivorian Massacre Trial," Reuters, August 1, 2001.
127 "Ivory Coast Police Cleared of Murder," www.bbc.co.uk, August 3, 2001.
128 "Ivory Coast Police Deny Guilt," Associated Press, July 31, 2001.
129 "Ivory Coast Court Acquits Officers," Associated Press, August 3, 2001.
130 "Ivory Coast - Report of Violations Within the Police Academy," Ministry of the Interior, December 2000.
131 Radio France International, December 11, 2000. Transcribed in: "Ivory Coast: Focus on Human Rights Issues," IRIN-West Africa, December 14, 2000.
132 Human Rights Watch, Abidjan, February 11, 2001.
133 Laurent Houssay, "Plainte en Belgique contre le president Ivoirien, nouvel embarrass diplomatique", Agence France-Presse, June 28, 2001.
134 Theophile Kouamouo, "Cote d'Ivoire: les gendarmes de Yopougon acquittes `faute de preuves,'" Le Monde, August 4, 2001.