Laurent Gbagbo, the former president of Ivory Coast has finally appeared at the International Criminal Court, ICC yesterday, Monday, December 5, 2011. He is actually facing charges of crimes against humanity, including murder and rape. Laurent Gbagbo is the first former head of state expected to be tried by the court since it was created; that is in 2002.
Laurent Gbagbo is aged 66 and he was arrested and flown from Ivory Coast to the Netherlands last week. Since then he was held at a detention centre in the Hague. He shares the same roof with many other personalities; great personalities as for the world's genocide and war crimes suspects. It is believed that almost 3,000 people were killed and more than a million displaced in a four-month civil war that outburst in Ivory Coast. This was due to the fact that Gbagbo had refused to cede power to Alassane Ouattara in last year's election whereas the results that were certified by the United Nations showed Ouattara won the election by a near 8-point margin, but his rival refused to concede and cracked down on suspected Ouattara supporters.
Mr Gbagbo appeared well dressed in a dark suit, white shirt and dark blue tie and looking rested and in good health. He told the ICC his identity, date of birth and told the world's top war crimes court that conditions at the detention centre where he has been held were ok. As for complaints, this court appearance lasted less than half an hour and Gbagbo spent most of his time describing the conditions under which he had been kept in Ivory Coast and of his arrest and transfer to The Hague. He said that while under house arrest in Ivory Coast, he had been provided with a bed, a mosquito net, a shower, and two meals a day, but could not see the sun and only knew what the weather was outside from the sound of raindrops on the roof. He strongly blamed the French soldiers to have caused his arrest as they were helping the people of Ouattara.
Besides,the ICC and Ivory Coast authorities tried to keep Gbagbo's arrest and transfer to the Hague a secret issue for fear it could be derailed or spark unrest, issuing his arrest warrant under seal to ensure it was kept under wraps until the last minute. Gbagbo said he had been told he was going to meet a magistrate in Ivory Coast, so he was surprised when the arrest warrant was produced, adding that he only had a pair of trousers and shirt with him at the time. Actually, he was taken by helicopter from Korhogo in northern Ivory Coast on November 29, where he had been under house arrest since his capture, and put on a plane to Rotterdam where he arrived the next day; that is on Nov 30. Gbagbo will not feel lonely at his prison.
From Africa, the inmates include Charles Taylor, the former Liberian president charged with committing murder, rape and sexual slavery as he sought control of Sierra Leone's diamond mines or diamonds of blood and Thomas Lubanga, the Congo warlord charged with recruiting child soldiers. Here, the court set Gbagbo's confirmation of charges hearing, where the prosecutor must show there is enough evidence to go to trial, for June, 18, 2012.
Does this transfer of Gbagbo to the Hague reflect a warning to the DRC politicians who are about to unrest the country due to the election of January 28? We cannot predict anything for the moment but this should tell them something crucial: Gbagbo to the Hague a day after the DRC election and presented to the Prosecutor a day before the release of final results of the mentioned election. African politicians should not have love for power but understand the power of love, which is to develop their countries and let the people express their feelings freely.
Besides, the ICC should really be an International Tribunal, not specific for African leaders only but for any leader, no matter where he comes from. This actually should make the ICC sound impartial.
Finally, African presidents should understand that once the people who gave them power decide to take it from them is quite normal. And this should proceed nonviolently.