The Loyal Man Lives No Longer Than The Traitor Pleases
This is an old Spanish proverb which reflects the insidious power of a traitor, especially when he is faced with the results of his own treachery. In the last two weeks there has been a witch hunt of junior officers and NCOs in the loyalist Gbagbo armed forces that followed the orders of their superiors and went to fight to preserve the unity of the nation and the Constitution of the Ivory Coast. When they became soldiers they took an oath to support the Constitution and its lawful Commander-in-Chief, the President. In fact, less than ten days before the final onslaught of the French and the rag-tag rebel forces the senior officers of the loyalist national army and gendarmerie renewed their oath of loyalty to the commander in chief, Gbagbo. They pledged this oath on behalf of all the officers and men under their command.
Now the putative leadership of the new rebel army, the FRCI, are calling in and detaining junior officers and NCOs of the national army and accusing them of treason and other crimes for fighting on the side of the President who was, at the time, their commander in chief. The local press has published that fifty members of the defence and security forces – the former Ivorian army – have been arrested in connection with crimes and other abuses committed in Cote d’Ivoire during the post-electoral violence, while another twenty-two are on the run. This is the work of the military prosecutor, Colonel Ange Kessi Kouame, who has disclosed that the seventy-two soldiers have been formerly charged with crimes.
One who got away was Abéhi Jean Christmas, head of the armoured squadron of police, an elite unit who remained faithful to the government until its fall. Abéhi left the country at the beginning of this week for a still unknown destination. This departure is in addition to the already long list of valorous officers and warrant officers of the ex-Forces of Defence and Safety (FDS) of Ivory Coast. They took the road of exile, fleeing imprisonment and fearing for their lives. In addition to the commander Abéhi, other charismatic officers have left; in particular Colonel Konan Boniface, the commander of the Fusillers commando (FUMACO); the head of the mobile rapid intervention force (DMIR), and Colonel Gouanou Alphonse, formerly head of the tactical sub group. He and his men put up a fierce resistance near Bondoukou, where they prevented the rebel entry to the capital, Zanzan. Colonel Gouanou then led the 2nd battalion at Daloa, organising the resistance He appeared on national television. He then was moved to lead the operations of the pro-Gbagbo army in Abidjan. A few days before the fall of the Palace, Colonels Boniface and Gouanou reappeared on television, broadcasting from within the presidential residence in Cocody. At their side were the top commanders Philippe Mangou, Tiapé Kassaraté and Brédou Me Bia. They were received in audience by President Laurent Gbagbo.
The ones who fled are much better off than those who stayed. Their junior officers are the ones now being rounded up. There was a particular embarrassment for Banny, who is now in charge of uniting the rebel fighters with the professional army, that Jean-Christmas Abéhi had escaped. Abehi had stayed in his bunker in the Agban camp and refused to leave the camp to meet with Soro on Monday. The FRCI had demanded that Banny let them attack Agban camp to get Abehi but this was not allowed. When they visited Agban (which had been defended by the FDS even after the French capture of Gbagbo) they found that Abehi was gone. They probably would not have been allowed to enter if Abehi was there. The FANCI, the loyalist army of the Ivory Coast had little problem defeating the rebel forces in virtually every engagement; sometime at a twenty to one disadvantage in numbers. The FRCI were rabble; untrained and badly led. It was only when French troops accompanied them and helicopter gunships and French tanks were used that they made any progress at all. During the conflict local sources say that twenty-three French soldiers lost their lives, four of whom were killed by French bombs and shells.
The whole notion of loyalist soldiers being tried for treason or violence against the rabble masses while doing their duty is a very tricky subject. They were acting to protect the Ivory Coast Constitution; the rebels were there to destroy the legitimate government. The politicians who served in the many governments introduced by the French and the UN after 2002 and those formed after the Ouagadougou Agreement owed a debt of allegiance to the Ivory Coast. They swore an oath to that effect when taking office. Article 13 of the Ivory Coast Constitution states: “Article 13. The Political Parties and Groups form themselves and exercise their activities freely within the condition of respecting the laws of the Republic, the principles of national sovereignty and of democracy. They are equal in rights and subject to the same obligations. Political Parties or Groups created on regional, confessional, tribal, ethnic or racial bases, are forbidden.”
How can Ouattara, Banny, Bedie and the other members of this band of vipers have the nerve to accuse the loyal soldiers for doing their jobs and fulfilling their oaths when they, as elected officials, heads of parties, and agents of the State chose to violate their oaths of office and their obligations under the Constitution to raise a rebellion against the national government in which they purportedly served? This is a national disgrace. Punishing the innocent does not make the wicked less culpable. Perhaps the United Nations and some of the other states in the European Union can raise objections to this petty witch hunt. This is certainly not what they are spending European cash for in an effort to promote elections, reconciliation and the expanded investments by the French business community.
Perhaps they should reflect on the second part of the Spanish proverb above “A loyal man lives forever but a traitor is soon forgotten”
By Dr. Gary K. Busch
Gary K. Busch is an international trades unionist, an academic, a businessman and a political affairs and business consultant for 40 years, and has traveled and worked extensively in Africa.