Ivory Coast Charges Charles Ble Goude With War Crimes, Murder

Charles Ble Goude, the former leader of a youth militia loyal to ex Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo, has been charged with war crimes and murder in the West African nation.

Ble Goude, appointed youth minister by Gbagbo during the crisis that followed a disputed 2010 presidential election, is also charged with robbery and damaging property, the government said in a statement on national television yesterday. He was arrested on an international warrant on Jan. 16 in neighboring Ghana and extradited a day later.

“Ble Goude’s arrest is unfortunate while we are about to start talks with the government,” Richard Kodjo, spokesman for the former ruling Front Populaire Ivoirien, said by phone from Abidjan, the commercial capital, referring to discussions over participating in local elections set for next month. “We are calling for the release of Charles Ble Goude.”

Known by his supports as “the street general” and for his rhetoric against foreigners in Ivory Coast, Ble Goude is the first Gbagbo ally who fled to Ghana to be returned by authorities in that country.

Gbagbo was arrested in Abidjan in April 2011 after five months of violent clashes in the world’s biggest cocoa producer. He and his wife Simone Gbagbo are facing war-crimes charges at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Alassane Ouattara, who won the disputed vote, was inaugurated a month after Gbagbo’s arrest.

Ethnic Violence

“For almost a decade, militiamen from Ble Goude’s Young Patriots terrorized northern Ivorians and West African immigrants in violence perpetrated on political and ethnic lines,” Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in an e-mailed statement on Jan. 18. Many victims were “beaten to death, shot, or burned alive at illicit checkpoints.”

His arrest is a “significant opportunity to continue the process of accountability for victims from one side of the crisis,” Dufka said.

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