News / Africa

Ivory Coast Soldiers On Trial at Military Court

Soldiers patrol the area after an attack in Dabou, around 50 km (30 miles) west of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Aug. 16, 2012.
Soldiers patrol the area after an attack in Dabou, around 50 km (30 miles) west of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Aug. 16, 2012.
TEXT SIZE - +
— Ivory Coast’s military tribunal has begun trying more than 30 soldiers for crimes including assault and murder.  Critics have been accusing the government of President Alassane Ouattara of shielding his military backers from the law.

The tribunal announced this week that a total of 33 soldiers would soon be brought to trial.

The proceedings Thursday concerned a December 2011 incident in which soldiers allegedly opened fire on a crowd of demonstrators in the central town of Vavoua.  The U.N. independent expert on human rights in Ivory Coast said five people died in the shooting.

The demonstrators had been protesting the death of a young man named Fofana Adama, who had been arrested by the army.  The U.N. expert said Adama died as a result of mistreatment by government forces.

Lieutenant Charles Awou Akodia, the tribunal’s judicial clerk, laid out the details of the charges against the seven suspects in the case.

He says the men have been charged with manslaughter, murder and assault. 

“The charge sheet indicates that after Fofana Adama died of his injuries in a private clinic, the demonstrators began to assemble and the situation deteriorated quickly, becoming uncontrollable,” he said. “Calm only returned after the intervention of U.N. forces and military forces from nearby towns.”

The launch of the proceedings came two years to the day after former President Laurent Gbagbo was arrested from his Abidjan bunker, ending a power struggle between him and current President Ouattara.  Gbagbo's refusal to leave office after losing the November 2010 presidential runoff vote sparked five months of violence that claimed at least 3,000 lives.

Since the end of the crisis, more than 150 Gbagbo supporters have been charged with crimes related to the violence, according to Human Rights Watch.

In recent months, Ivory Coast's judiciary has come under fire for not pursuing cases against Ouattara’s military backers.  No pro-Ouattara forces have been charged in connection with the violence, despite widespread evidence of human rights abuses on both sides.

The current military is composed mainly of fighters who backed Ouattara.

All of the cases the military tribunal plans to try in the coming weeks concern crimes that were committed after the conflict ended.

Matt Wells, West Africa researcher for Human Rights Watch, said the new cases are a positive development, but called for more progress in pursuing what he called “politically sensitive” cases - including crimes committed during the post-election violence as well as more recent alleged abuses.

"It is a positive sign in terms of the government starting to address impunity in the military - particularly the Vavoua incident, in which soldiers appeared to have used excessive force against a demonstration," said Wells. "At the same time, the government has yet to make progress on any of the sensitive cases that touch the military.  It is crucial that this really be the first step toward justice for all of the crimes that have been committed by soldiers over the last few years. "

The military tribunal has said cases involving alleged extortion by soldiers at roadblocks, a common complaint throughout the country, will be heard beginning in June.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid