Sunday, January 20, 2013

Ivorian fugitive Charles Ble Goude arrested in Ghana

Friday, January 18, 2013
By Edmund Mingle 
Charles Ble Goude, the fugitive Ivorian youth leader, has been reportedly arrested here in Ghana.

Mr. Ble Goude, a Youth Minister under former President Laurent Gbagbo, has been on the run from his country, which issued an arrest warrant for him.

He was being sought to answer charges in connection with violence linked to Cote d’Ivoire’s disputed presidential election two years ago, which left hundreds dead.

Mr. Ble Goude was implicated by Human Rights Watch in grave crimes committed during the violence linked to the electoral dispute in late 2010 and early 2011, between former President Gbagbo and the current leader, Alassane Ouattara.

It is believed that he is being held at the Bureau of National Investigations, but officials of both the bureau and National Security are tight-lipped over the arrest.

The whereabouts of Mr. Ble Goude was unknown at the time of going to press, but his Netherlands-based lawyer, Nick Kaufman, was reported by the Associated Press (AP) as having been in contact with Ghanaian officials, seeking the legal grounds for the arrest.

Mr. Ble Goude, who was a former leader of the Young Patriots group, an influential youth organization linked to former President Gbagbo, was put under UN sanctions in 2006, accused of inciting attacks against UN personnel, but he denied the claims.

He went into hiding, after the capture in April 2011, of ex-President Gbagbo, who had refused to accept electoral defeat and now faces war crimes charges at The Hague.

Some time before his arrest, Mr. Ble Goude told the BBC from his hiding place outside that he was not running from justice, but from people who were after his life.
"I'm not running from justice... people are looking to kill me," he said.

Known for his vitriolic speeches, Mr Ble Goude is alleged to have mobilised thousands of young men to join the army in the final days of the election dispute.

But he told the BBC that, as head of the Young Patriots group, he only organised rallies and meetings and never ran a militia.

"I am not chief of militia - I've never bought weapons; we went to the streets against those who had weapons, we were bare handed," he said.

He said he was ready to go to the International Criminal Court in The Hague if that was what it would take to clear his name.

Mr. Ble Goude said he was prepared to go home on a number of conditions.

“I want all the prisoners to be freed; I want all those people in exile to come back home with their dignity."

He said there would never be peace in the Cote d’Ivoire unless the different sides of the political divide learnt to live together.

Earlier this month, the Ivorian authorities said they had foiled a plot to overthrow the government organised by pro-Gbagbo supporters who were linked to cross-border raids from Liberia.

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