Two French judges fly to Ivory Coast this week as part of an
investigation into the abduction five years ago of a French-Canadian
journalist in the West African country. The magistrates will hear testimony from the wife of Ivorian President
Simone Gbagbo's expected testimony is part of a long-running
investigation into the disappearance of French-Canadian reporter
Guy-Andre Kieffer in 2004.
Witnesses say Kieffer was abducted in
the parking lot of a supermarket in the main city, Abidjan. At the
time, he was investigating the country's powerful -- and reportedly
corrupt -- cocoa industry. He has not been heard of since, and French
investigators believe he was murdered.
Kieffer was scheduled to meet Mrs. Gbagbo's brother-in-law, Michel Legre,
before he was abducted. French investigators are said to be focusing
on officials in Gbagbo's government with ties to the cocoa sector.
Pierre, Africa researcher for the Paris-based watchdog group Reporters
Without Borders, hailed Mrs. Gbagbo's apparent willingness to testify after failing to answer two previous summonses.
said there is nothing to suggest Mrs. Gbagbo could be considered a
direct suspect in the affair. The first lady says she has nothing to do
with it and Pierre said the testimony will offer her the opportunity
to make her argument.
Kieffer's is not the first case involving
a French reporter in Ivory Coast. Another journalist, Jean-Helene, was
killed by an Ivorian police officer in 2003.
Pierre offered a largely positive assessment of media conditions in
Ivory Coast. He said reporters now stay away from investigating the
cocoa sector, but they cover many other issues -- and generally don't
have problems getting published.