/ 24 December 2011

Gbagbo supporters stage Hague protest

Several hundred supporters of Côte d’Ivoire’s former president Laurent Gbagbo protested on Saturday outside the International Criminal Court (ICC) prison where he is spending Christmas behind bars.

“We are celebrating Christmas here with the president and even if he cannot see us, we think he does hear us,” Abel Neki, president of the pan-African CRI association, said at the prison.

The supporters, mainly from France, gathered outside the ICC’s detention unit in the Dutch seaside suburb of Scheveningen, where Gbagbo has been locked up since his transfer to The Hague on November 30.

Police estimated around 250 protesters at the rally, while organisers put the figure at 500.

“Our president Laurent Gbagbo is being locked up here unfairly,” Saint-Jules Cama, a teacher of modern Ivorian literature from Paris said. “We are here to show him support because he is our only president.”

The first former head of state to be surrendered to the ICC, Gbagbo (66) was imprisoned in The Hague after being transferred by plane from northern Côte d’Ivoire, where he had been under house arrest since April.

He faces charges before the ICC for his involvement in crimes committed during five months of post-presidential election violence after the restive West African country’s disputed November 2010 polls.

Gbagbo’s refusal to hand over the reigns to his long-time opponent and now President Alassane Ouattara plunged the world’s top cocoa-grower into a deadly crisis which the United Nations said claimed around 3 000 lives.

Organisers said a previous demonstration to support Gbagbo, held on December 10 in front of the ICC headquarters, attracted around 2 000 people. Police at the time put the figure at 600.

Ouattara’s Rally of Republicans party earlier this month won the greatest number of seats in the Ivorian Parliament in elections which were boycotted by Gbagbo’s camp. — AFP