FRANCE 24’s Observers Team has been able to obtain and verify video documenting the brutal murder of three suspected militants loyal to former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo in Abobo, a suburb just outside of the main city of Abidjan. The footage constitutes the first authenticated images of an act of violence against suspected Gbagbo supporters during last year’s post-electoral conflict.
An estimated 3,000 people were killed in the clashes that followed Ivory Coast’s disputed 2010 presidential elections between Gbagbo and now-President Alassane Ouattara.
FRANCE 24 was able to collect a number of witness statements from bystanders who saw the killing in Abobo. Here are some of the highlights of what they saw.
WARNING: THIS VIDEO CONTAINS GRAPHIC IMAGES
In the footage FRANCE 24 obtained, the three men seen in the video attempted to leave Abobo by taxi, but were arrested at a checkpoint. It appears those who discovered the fleeing men also found a notebook in their possession which contained photos depicting the three dressed in pro-Gbagbo paraphernalia.
Once the notebook was discovered, the events that followed unfolded very quickly. The trio were first undressed and forced to sit on the pavement. In one of the videos, one hears the crowd accusing them of being militants. The three young men begged to be released.
The suspected militants were beaten, and then burnt in a pile of tyres. According to eyewitnesses, the three men were already dead by the time their bodies were doused with petrol.
The video was shot in early March 2011 near the local police station in the heart of Abobo. The northern suburb served as the central stage of nearly two-months of clashes between Gbagbo supporters and the “invisible commando”, an armed group that supported Ouattara.
The incident took place just after the suburb of Abobo came under the control of the Ouattara’s invisible commando. The majority of Gbagbo’s Defence and Security Forces (FDS) had already fled the area. Locals had put barricades in place to more easily control traffic in and out of Abobo, as well as to prevent Gbagbo’s remaining supporters from escaping the suburb. Vehicles leaving the area were meticulously searched.
Our sources in Abobo confirmed that this was not the only mob killing of its kind to take place in their suburb during this period. According to the NGO Human Rights Watch, once forces loyal to Ouattara seized control of Abidjan, several executions and acts of torture were committed against individuals suspected of supporting Gbagbo. Up until now, no one has been unable to verify a single image related to these alleged abuses.
FRANCE 24’s Observers Website has already documented similar acts of violence allegedly perpetrated by Gbagbo’s armed forces against suspected Ouattara supporters.
Gbagbo, who was arrested on April 11, currently faces charges of crimes against humanity over his role in the post-election violence at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Post written with FRANCE 24 journalists Julien Pain and Ségolène Malterre.