© Nicoletta Fagiolo

Simone & Laurent Gbagbo,

le droit à la différence

          Simone & Laurent Gbagbo, the right to difference

 

Pan-Africanists from the west African country of Côte d'Ivoire, Simone and Laurent Gbagbo, are the leading founders of democracy with a personal history of over 40 years of non-violent struggle to achieve democratic reforms in their country.

When in 1980  Ivorian dictator Félix Houphouet-Boigny allowed voting within the one-party system Laurent Gbagbo, a student activist, protested: to have the freedom to vote only within a single party was for him a “dangerous statement because it represses the right to be different, a right essential for the evolution of a country.”

​The right to difference – whether in the field of trade unions, political parties, ethnic identities, economic models or the press – is the cornerstone of the non-violent struggle developed by Simone and Laurent Gbagbo since 1969.

In 1982, defying the one-party dictatorship at the time, they founded a political party, the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI). Simone and Laurent Gbagbo developed a non-violent protest movement, later known as “la révolution à mains nues”- unarmed or empty handed revolution- which called for democratic reforms.

Laurent Gbagbo, sworn in as President in 2000, soon faced  an aggressive international defamation campaign targeting his movement's leaders - and involving established NGOs, filmmakers, journalists, lawyers as well as politicians and academics. All depicted Gbagbo as a dictator, Simone Gbagbo as a iron lady and youth activist Charles Blé Goudé as a militia leader. Such reporting has been uncritically cited by major news outlets.

​​Following a contested election in 2010, were many believe Gbagbo had won, a regime change was carried out on the part of France with United Nations backing in April 2011, imposing Alassane Ouattara as President. This form of neo-colonial interventionism has been corroborated by the recent International Criminal Court trial.

Laurent Gbagbo was held in detention for eight months and then deported to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague and accused  of crimes against humanity.

Today Laurent Gbagbo, after having undergone 8 years of prison at the International Criminal Court, as well as Charles Blé Goudé who has undergone five years of imprisonment, were acquitted of all charges in the joint trial on 16 January 2019, as ICC judges Judges Herderson and Tarfusser asked for their immediate release in respect of their right to liberty.

That same day late in the evening and despite the acquittal the ICC Prosecutor filed an appeal and arrested Gbagbo and Blè Goudé again. They spent an additional two weeks in detention (as acquitted individuals) and were released only on 1 February, yet with severe restrictions which breach all principles of international human rights law.

The reasons for the acquittal were published on 16 July 2019- Judge Henderson https://www.icc-cpi.int/RelatedRecords/CR2019_03857.PDF and Judge Tarfusser: https://www.icc-cpi.int/RelatedRecords/CR2019_03857.PDF

Laurent Gbagbo's wife Simone was imprisoned in Cote d'Ivoire by the Alassane Ouattara dictatorship although she was acquitted in her trial in Abidjan for crimes against humanity. On 8 August 2018, after 7 years in prison, former Côte d’Ivoire First Lady Simone Gbagbo left her jail cell and today is a leading figure for peace and reconciliation.

Charles Blé Goudé, a leading non-violent protest leader, represents the next generation that followed in their footsteps, calling for change through non-violent means.

Blé Goudé stopped four armed regime change attempts by France, as thousands followed his calls to protest with bare hands. Charles Blé Goudé also underwent a year in prison in Cote d'Ivoire and  5 years of detention at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague in the joint trial with Laurent Gbagbo. Blé Goudé, like Laurent Gbagbo,  still faces strict restrictions of mouvement while residing in a hotel in Holland, restrictions set by the ICC which many say are breaching basic human rights law.

​Fearing no ridicule, despite the extreme vacuity of the evidence (and the 1,100 page arguments which analyse in detail the trial’s findings)  by now under review for eight years,  the ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda decided to go forward with the appeal in September 2019 and asked for a mistrial.

An article on the summary of the acquittal. ICC judges dismissed the prosecutor’s evidence and called Laurent Gbagbo a responsible president https://www.iol.co.za/news/opinion/icc-judges-dismiss-prosecutors-evidence-call-laurent-gbagbo-a-responsible-president-31157569

Through video testimonies on Côte d’Ivoire's recent history from politicians, academics, journalists, artists and other first-hand witnesses, the documentary film project Simone & Laurent Gbagbo, the right to difference developed by independent filmmaker Nicoletta Fagiolo wants to give voice to this untold story of injustice and neo-colonialism, in the hope of contributing in halting the current unlawful prosecutions and bringing a truthful and genuine peace.

Download article from South African magazine  THE THINKER   
The dangerous idea of non-violence in the history of Côte d’Ivoire
THE THINKER Volume 69 / 2016    INTERNATIONAL 

Listen to what Italian ambassador to Côte d'Ivoire Paolo Sannella

has to say on the Ivorian crisis https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6A36OjLKGu4&feature=youtu.be

Listen to what former South African President

Thabo Mbeki has to say on the Laurent

Gbagbo case and the ICC here

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