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Wednesday 17 September  
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NEAR THE TOGO-BENIN BORDER, Togo
NEAR THE TOGO-BENIN BORDER, Togo

Ivory Coast's Ble Goude says ready to face ICC

Published on : 28 June 2012 - 12:24pm | By International Justice Desk (photo: ANP)
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Charles Ble Goude, the fugitive youth leader once known as Ivory Coast's "Street General", has told AFP he is ready to join his ex-boss Laurent Gbagbo in The Hague and face trial.

"I am ready to go to the ICC (International Criminal Court) because I have nothing to blame myself for," said the firebrand former leader of the "Young Patriots", often accused of inciting deadly 2010-2011 post-election unrest.

Ble Goude, wearing a beige suit and dark blue tie, was speaking on Monday from a hotel near the border between Togo and Benin, in his first face-to-face interview since fleeing Ivory Coast in April last year.

The Ivorian crisis started with Gbagbo's refusal to concede defeat in November 2010 elections, sparking armed clashes that killed thousands.

Gbagbo was arrested on April 11, 2011 in Abidjan, by forces loyal to his election rival, and now president, Alassane Ouattara.

He was later bundled into a plane to The Hague, where is now locked up, awaiting confirmation of charges of crimes against humanity as a co-perpetrator of "murder, rape, persecution and other inhuman acts."

No warrant yet

The ICC is not known to have issued a warrant for Ble Goude, but the 40-year-old is believed to be among those who could be targeted by the court. He is also wanted by Ivory Coast.

"I am not an advocate of weapons, I never maintained a single militia. If the ICC wants to invite me for having organised protest marches, I have no problem appearing before the ICC," he said.

"I am ready to go before the ICC so that we may finally know in Ivory Coast who did what."

Former ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo had suggested before he even launched a probe into the violence, which according to the United Nations left at least 3,000 people dead, that Ble Goude could be in his sights.

"If as a consequence of Mr. Charles Ble Goude's speeches, there is massive violence, he could be prosecuted," Moreno-Ocampo had said in December 2010, when the post-election crisis was still escalating.

Inciting words

Gbagbo's former youth minister had galvanised support for the veteran leader during the crisis with fiery speeches urging mass mobilisation against what he called pro-Ouattara "rebels" and their foreign backers France and the UN.

Eighteen months on, Ble Goude said he was constantly watching his back, convinced that he was being tracked.

He declined to reveal where he had spent the first few months of his exile, amid rumours he had found refuge in Ghana and Gambia.

Not running, just hiding

"I am not on the run... just in hiding," he said.

Ble Goude also said he was "ready to face justice" in Ivory Coast but accused Ouattara of imposing "victor's justice".

"Keeping all Gbagbo supporters behind bars, sending them into exile or persecuting them doesn't strike me as being the right move," he said, urging Ouattara's administration to free prisoners and unfreeze the assets of former regime officials.

Ble Goude has proposed a meeting with the president of the country's reconciliation commission, former prime minister Charles Konan Banny.

"I propose that we meet, Banny and I, in South Africa to discuss the Ivory Coast", he said, saying that that country had become "an example of reconciliation" after apartheid.

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