This past Thursday, Former president of Ivory Coast Laurent Gbagbo became the first previous head of state to go on trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Mr. Gbagbo faces four charges of crimes against humanity, which include murder, rape, and persecution during the contested elections of 2010 and 2011. In a close race, Mr. Gbagbo’s
rival, Alassane Ouattara, became president. However, disagreement over the results drove the nation into a civil war that resulted in 3,000 deaths.
Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda accused Mr. Gbagbo on Thursday of clinging to power “by any means necessary,” with the help of the military, police, and a youth militia. Mr. Gbagbo pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Gbagbo’s lawyer Emmanuel Altit argued that the former president’s actions were part of efforts to restore democracy in his country. Mr. Altit said prosecutors have crafted a “political narrative… intended to justify the use of force against President Gbagbo.” According to Mr. Gbagbo, Mr. Ouattara’s forces also committed abuses that the prosecution has ignored.
In 2010 and 2011, Mr. Ouattara, a former IMF economist who Mr. Gbagbo’s supporters describe as a “rebel chief,” used help from the French government to bolster his claims to power. France also provided Mr. Ouattara’s forces with heavy weapons in their intervention to remove Mr. Gbagbo from the presidential residence after the election.
The complexity of this case has created controversy across Africa. At the African Union summit on Sunday, several heads of state backed the Kenyan proposal to pull out of the International Criminal Court on the grounds that it is biased.
The case’s proceedings are expected to continue for three to four years.