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Friday, April 22, 2011

Simone Gbagbo: Beaten, Tortured and probably sexually harassed by Ouattara soldiers

Simone Gbagbo-Forced to look at the Camera after Humiliation, Brutal Beating and Torture


The first time I came across a photo of Simone Gbagbo was in January this year, at a West African news site that I occasionally follow (allwestafrica.com). She was at a rally in support of her husband, Laurent Gbagbo. The husband was not present at the rally. The site then posted some other pictures in mid march, where she had attended a prayer rally for peace in Ivory Coast. Again, her husband was not there. That was when I developed some interest and googled her name, and I was really stunned to read a little about her. The next time I saw her photo, at the same site, was a day after 4/11, and the above photo was one of them. Since then, these 4/11 photos have been written about and distributed around with words like “Gbagbo deserved this,” “Gbagbo and wife caught in a bunker!” “African dictators should learn from this,” “Kudos to the French, now we go to Zimbabwe, hope Grace is watching,” “Did Gbagbo have to put his family through this?” and many other sickening comments.

Successful African women
There have been many attempts to destroy the fame, character and public perception of Female African Revolutionaries, Female African freedom fighters and Successful Female African Politicians (especially those politicians who are independent of the west.)
In some earlier article, I wrote about Field Marshal Muthoni, a Kenyan guerrilla Independence war heroine, who rose to the rank of a Mau Mau General, but has had a total blackout by the former and current governments and from other institutions such as the media, yet she is still alive and strong. Stories about Winnie Mandela are always focused on her alternative love life and little about her role in the anti-apartheid struggle. And there are many other strong women who have been given the same treatment. Even heroines from the past, heroines such as Mekatilili wa Menza and Wanje wa Mwadorikola who led men in the coast in resisting the British Colonialists, a hero like Muthoni Nyanjiru, who led women in probably the first nonviolent protest recorded in Colonial Kenya, a Heroine like Taitu Betul-the decisive Ethiopian empress who led the resounding defeat of the Italian Colonialists in the battle of Adowa, and many other female heroines.
It is this treatment of our past women heroines, coupled with religious chauvinism that has undermined the rise of women into decision making positions, and has also brainwashed most Africans, both Male and Female, into not entrusting leading roles to women.
Africa was a continent which produced powerful queens and natural female leaders, who were accepted and accorded respect by the communities that they led. Historians tell us that when it was the woman leading, the community became stronger and developed faster. Karl Marx once wrote that “Everyone who knows anything of history also knows that great social revolutions are impossible without the feminine ferment. Social progress may be measured precisely by the social position of the fair sex”, Mao Zedong also, in his quest to liberate the Chinese women once told the people to “Unleash women’s fury as a real force for the revolution.”
There are countries where women heroes are encouraged, celebrated and accorded the respect they deserve. In a country like Cuba, Celia Sanchez, Vilma Espin, Haydee Santamaria, Tete Puebla and many other women leaders are given the recognition that they earned. Strong women like Rosa Luxemburg, Harriet Tubman, Kim Jong Suk and many others are still remembered by the societies that they represented, and beyond.
Of course, just as it is in the case of men, it is not just any woman who can lead. That is why the story of Simone-Ehivet Gbagbo inspires me, in the same extent as some of the pictures that I have posted here (below) bring me to tears.

Who is Simone Gbagbo?
“We will never get tired of saying that more women should get into decision making positions” -Simone Gbagbo
Dr. Simone was born on 20th June 1949, in the village of Mossou in Ivory Coast to Ehivet Jean, a Policeman and Marie Djaha, who died after giving birth to her. She excelled in her academics, through to the University of Abidjan, where she pursued a degree in Oral Literature and linguistics. She furthered her education in numerous institutions, including the University of Villentaneuse and the University of Dakar. She has also participated in many academic forums all over the world.
In her early life, she aspired to be a teacher, and she became one, where she taught in Secondary school, and later in the University.
Since her childhood days, she was an active member of several youth groups, both in the Community and in the church. As a secondary school teacher, although she never held any position in the teachers Union, she was a very committed member of that union, and used to participate and mobilize other teachers in their activities.
She later shifted to lecturing at the University of Abidjan, where she got deeply involved in the powerful Lecturers’ trade Union (S.Y.N.A.R.E.S) which she headed.
All this time, just like in most African Countries in that era, Ivory Coast was headed by a brutal dictator called Houphouet Boigny, who served as a puppet of the French, a supporter of apartheid in South Africa, a good friend of Jonas Savimbi, and a fervent opponent of Pan Africanism. It was her opposition to the activities of this dictator that landed her to prison on several occasions.
Still at the University, she, together with other Lecturers and Students, joined an underground political organisation, which held clandestine political study circles within the university. It was in one of the study circle cells that she met Laurent Gbagbo, in 1973. Gbagbo was just fresh from Jail (Gbagbo too was used to the prison gates as a political prisoner.)
It was from this underground organizing that Gbagbo, Simone and others formed the FPI (Ivorian Popular Front) which still operated from the underground, since it was illegal to have any other party in Ivory Coast.
Fast forward to the 90’s: Due to the pressure that the underground was putting on Houphouet, the dictator allowed for multipartism, where Gbagbo was his only challenger. Simone on her part vied for the municipal elections in Abobo district. They both lost the elections. After the elections they were both imprisoned again, this was after she was brutally beaten up by soldiers before their arrest. After her release, she and other party members began building the FPI, where she became the National Secretary in charge of Political education and Agriculture. Five years later, she vied for the position of Member of Parliament, representing the Abobo district, where she comfortably won. She was then elected as the Vice President of the Ivorian parliament by the MPs.
In the year 2000, Laurent Gbagbo was sworn in as the President, and she became the First Lady of Ivory Coast. (Unlike other African first ladies who wear expensive clothes and do expensive shopping abroad, Simone, dresses in the ordinary Ivorian clothes, and leads a modest lifestyle.)The parliamentary elections were then held in 2002, and people from Abobo district asked that she represents them again in parliament. She accepted to vie. Some of her party members were opposed to this, and her rivals in other parties began their smear campaigns, where they called her greedy, telling the voters that if they voted for her, she would abandon them and go back to the presidential palace.
The elections were held, and she emerged the winner among the four candidates, garnering over 39, 000 votes, which was 56% of the total votes, while the other three shared the rest amongst themselves. 
Events continued to happen within Ivory Coast, when the Ouattara rebels, aided by France and Blaise Compaore (the French puppet president of Burkina Faso) and wrecked lots of havoc in I.C. During that civil war, the French annihilated Gbagbo’s Air force after the air force bombed some French soldiers who, without the knowledge of the government were secretly training the Ouattara Rebels.
As peace talks were being held, she stood her ground, and insisted that the talks should continue within the contexts of I.C’s constitution. By saying this, she was considered by many to be a hardliner: But one should ask, if people cannot respect constitutions, law and order, then how can countries be governed? Most European countries are stable because people stick to their constitutions. Even African dictators to some extent respect this fact. They always change their constitutions before increasing their term limits; They do not extend their terms then change their constitutions.
At the peace talks (which were held in France), it was agreed that Ouattara would vie in the next elections. It was also agreed that the rebels would be included in Gbagbo’s government. It was also agreed that Ouattara’s rebels would be disarmed, before the elections could be held. Instead of disarming his rebels, Ouattara increased the size of his rebel army, with massive support from the French. This led to the postponement of the election by four years. All this time, Simone would speak her mind. She would speak and stick to the truth and condemn all these developments, especially the French involvement. At one moment during the peace talks, Kofi Anan suggested that because of her strong stand and influence on the populace of I.C, she could be included into the peace talks!

Simone-Dances at a rally in support of her Husband Gbagbo(Jan 2011)
The Jovial African Woman!



Simone Shaking Hands with Charles Ble Goude-Leader of the Young Patriots
 Unfortunately, a lot of international pressure was exacted on Gbagbo, and the elections were held without the disarmament of the rebels. What followed was what was earlier feared. Massive rigging in the rebel held territories, voter intimidation, voting under the barrel of the gun among many other mal practices, especially in the second round voting.
It is highly probable that all this would not have happened, if Simone was the president of I.C. She would have nipped it in the bud.
Speaking of if she was the president, most Ivorians felt that she could vie for presidency after her husband’s term ended. She was termed by the people as the “Hillary Clinton of Africa.”
Many allegations and cases have been brought against her, but she has overcome all of them. The French even accused her of murder, but she won the case, after which Laurent Gbagbo sued the double agent who had presented the false creations to the French.
In my opinion, Simone’s main weakness is her deep religious belief. But believers would consider this as a strong point.
Simone has been at the forefront of many initiatives targeting women and girls.
On her arrival at a Peace Prayer Rally in Abidjan-Always jovial (March 2011)

At the Prayer Rally-Deep in Thought
 The French/U.N led illegal arrest
But it was how she was mistreated after the “Capture” that saddens me most. It made me ask myself very many questions. Very bitter questions.
It is a known fact that one of Gbagbo’s ministers who was with them during the capture was brutally beaten up, and shot dead in head. Ouattara’s men then claimed that he had tried to kill himself (by beating himself up?)
Looking at Simone’s photos at the capture, it is clear that she was beaten up, tortured, and probably sexually assaulted. Ever since these pictures and their videos were made public, nobody has come out to condemn these dehumanizing acts on Simone. No word from the so called civil societies, no word from those who defend universal rights, and surprisingly, no word from any African first lady or politician.
Humiliated-Simone faces down-Gbagbo trying to put up a straight face

It appears as if she is ordered to look at the Camera.Gbagbo sits calmly

The Humiliation Continues,they both appear to protest
 It is clear that the tortures were ordered directly by Ouattara himself, since the rebel soldiers who entered the palace and later took Gbagbo and his family to the Gulf Hotel were not the simple rank and files. His top soldiers were present at capture and at the hotel, and it is clear that they were receiving direct orders from him. Even before the illegal arrests were made, Ouattara had said that he had given his soldiers direct orders not to harm Gbagbo. It is then possible that he had given them direct orders to harm Simone.
But why did Ouattara do this? Why did the soldiers take the orders? Was it Gbagbo that they had a problem with or was it Simone? These photos are just so sad. Furthermore, if this is how the best Ouattara soldiers would treat the first lady and an elected leader in I.C in front of the cameras, then how did they treat the ordinary women that they met in the villages? Even the staunchest Ouattara defenders would now find it hard to refute the torture, the rape cases and the genocidal killings that they are reported to have, and still are committing.
Taken Outside and Forced by Ouattara Rebels to lie on the Floor

French backed-Ouattara Rebels forcefully pose for a photo with her lying down
 This is something that has probably never been witnessed in the world before. Idi Amin was toppled out of power, but the wives were not touched. Samuel Doe was killed and his naked body paraded in the streets of Liberia, but the same was not meted on the wife. Haile Selasie was buried in a latrine, but this treatment was not extended to his wife. In as much as we cannot even slightly compare the above mentioned people with Gbagbo, we see that the rebels and mutineers in these places had some sense of humanity in them.
In these pictures, we see Gbagbo for some reason being made to change clothes three times in one day; hence I would not be surprised to learn to hear that these men sexually harassed or even raped Simone that day, as some sites suggest.
Gbagbo being taken out-He is in his pajamas

Gbagbo without a shirt, wiping tears off his face

Gbagbo in a Green Summer shirt

Gbagbo in a Brown Shirt
 For me, it is clear that Ouattara and the French first wanted their revenge on Simone, and secondly, they fear Simone more than they fear anybody else, and they know that if they do not deal with her once and for all, then she would be back to haunt them, as she has done in the past.
It will be sad if they kill her and claim that she killed herself, but it will not be an unexpected move.
Is this how Ouattara and the French trained their men to handle women prisoners?
How Ouattara's best forces handled the 1st Lady

Young Ouattara Soldiers manhandling the 62 year old African Woman....on Camera
 It is expected that wives of heads of state influence some of the decisions that their husbands make. In most cases, we also see their wives being involved in their campaigns, where they address public meetings and television shows. But does that warrant this kind of treatment? I would feel really sad and angered if some Al Qaeda fellows captured Bush and his family, and then subjected Laura to any bad treatment. How would Obama feel if this was done to Mitchell by one of his many enemies? How would Kenyans have felt if either Lucy Kibaki or Ida Odinga underwent such treatment, because they performed their roles as their husband’s wives?
Laurent Gbagbo's Wife

George Bush's Wife
Barrack Obama's Wife
  

Mwai Kibaki's Wife
Raila Odinga's Wife-Raila was an AU mediator who
openly Supported Ouattara, immediately he was
appointed as a mediator


 Even Gbagbo did not think of doing such to General Guei or his wife in 2000. How would Ouattara, his supporters, and humanity in general feel, if the tables were to turn today, and Ouattara is arrested by Gbagbo’s forces, then his French wife’s hair is torn from her scalp, when she is beaten up, and treated as they have treated Simone?
Ouattara's Wife-Dominique Nouvian Folloroux

Ouattara and Dominique at a public funtion
 Inspiration, rather than demoralization
Whether her husband won or lost the elections, Simone did/does not deserve this kind of treatment.
If they did this so as to depict her image to the public as weak and hopeless, then what they have done has given Africans Strength and hope, to fight the Imperialists and their local representatives. If by torturing her they think that people will fear and run away, then they should know that they have given people the strength, and that people will run towards them with ideas, arms and all that they have. I hope, that if their intention was to curtail the rise of women into decision making positions, then African women will be inspired and take their rightful role in the society in large numbers.
In this last photo below, Simone seems to be looking straight into our hearts, telling us that she has so far played her role, and it is up to us to join hands with her, and continue with the struggle against Imperialism and the attempted re-colonization.
Ouattara rebels-Some pulling her hair, she is holding her cheek as if she has just been slapped, the is holding a piece of torn cloth, her dress and Bra sleeves have been pulled up, she has been forced to sit on the floor of a basement room.
She gives us the look
The look that gives us the Anger
 The Anger that gives us the Hope
The Hope that gives us the Strength
the Strength that will defeat the Imperialists
The Imperialists and their local Representatives
Long Live Ivory Coast
Long Live Africa


Let us join hands. Alluta Continua!


Benedict Wachira
21st April 2011
11:57 pm


Some important links
Simone Gbagbo’s official Website: http://www.simonegbagbo.com/