Côte d’Ivoire’s Soro, CAR’s Bozizé, Djibouti’s Kadamy…Prosecuted for attempted coups or destabilisation

In depth
This article is part of the dossier: The 20 most wanted Africans…

By Charles Djade, Fadwa Islah, François Soudan, Mathieu Olivier, Vincent Duhem
Posted on Wednesday, 6 October 2021 08:56

Côte d'Ivoire's Guillaume Soro, the National Assembly’s former president, Agbéyomé Kodjo, an unsuccessful Togolese presidential candidate, and the CAR’s president-turned-militant François Bozizé have all been accused of conspiracy as well as either leading an attempted coup d’état or destabilisation and now live in exile. We delve into those accused of such charges in the third part of our series.

This is part 3 of a 4-part series

Côte d’Ivoire – Guillaume Soro, back to hell

49-year-old Guillaume Soro has gone back into hiding. In April 2020, the former leader of the Forces Nouvelles rebellion was sentenced to 20 years in prison for handling misappropriated public funds. In April 2021, he was then sentenced to life imprisonment for attempting to undermine state authority, for conspiracy, disseminating false information and disturbing public order. As such, Soro has undergone a brutal descent into hell in just a few short months.

Even though the French authorities have still not responded to the arrest warrant that Abidjan issued in November 2020, they quickly made it clear to the National Assembly’s former president that he was no longer welcome on their soil. Soro had taken up residence in Paris ever since he left Côte d’Ivoire in late 2019. Elusive, he now travels constantly between Brussels, Geneva, Turkey and the French capital. Only a handful of people, with whom he exchanges messages and videoconferences, know exactly where he is.

Soro – who used to be long-winded on social media, which he had made his favourite playground – is now discreet. Is he waiting for the weather to change? Is he hoping to take advantage of the political appeasement underway on the shores of the Ebrié Lagoon? Laurent Gbagbo said he had discussed Soro’s case during his tête-à-tête with Alassane Ouattara (ADO) on 27 July. “The president told me two [things] about Soro: […] all this is part of our struggle, but we must move forward step by step. For the moment, these are the ones that can be removed by decree. I will also stick my neck out for the others so that they can return to the country,” said the former president.

It is unlikely that the Ivorian head of state will hear the appeal. At present, ADO refuses to compromise with the person he used to refer to as ‘my son’. “He feels that Soro has betrayed him. He won’t do him any favours,” says one of the president’s close friends. On 10 August, Mohammed Sess Soukou, a loyal supporter of the National Assembly’s former president, was arrested in Bamako – where he had taken refuge for several months, at the request of the Ivorian authorities.

Togo – Agbéyomé Kodjo, the ‘chosen one’ is stubborn

On 10 July, it had been a year since the former candidate for the 2020 presidential elections had left Togo at night, the day after he had received summons from the public prosecutor at the court of first instance in Lomé, Essolissam Poyodi. Ever since Togolese justice prosecuted 66-year-old Agbéyomé Kodjo for ‘aggravated disturbance of public order’, ‘dissemination of false news’, ‘slanderous denunciations’ and ‘undermining the state’s internal security’, he has been living in hiding outside Togo and is the subject of an international arrest warrant. Even though it has not been validated by Interpol, according to a document that we managed to access last February, it [the warrant] remains in force, as specified by the Togolese judicial authorities.

In fact, Gnassingbé Eyadéma’s former prime minister – who is still contesting the results of the 2020 presidential election and Faure Gnassingbé’s re-election – knows that he could be arrested if he were to set foot on Togolese soil and has therefore decided to extend his exile. First announced in Accra, Ghana – like Bishop Fanoko Philippe Kpodzro, who was the former archbishop of Lomé and supported Kodjo in the February 2020 presidential election – the oppositionist and self-proclaimed ‘elected president’ then headed for Europe. Only his family and political entourage know his exact whereabouts.

However, Kodjo has not given up since his ‘maquis’. He has increased his number of outings and posts on social media, sharing audio messages in his capacity as ‘elected president’ and demanding a peaceful transfer of power from Gnassingbé. He borrowed this tactic from Tikpi Atchadam, president of the Parti National Panafricain, who fled to Ghana in October 2017 after the 19 August demonstration was harshly repressed.

On the legal front, Kodjo’s French lawyers, Mes Pierre-Henri Bovis and Robin Binsard, filed a complaint – which was deemed admissible – with the UN Human Rights Committee. “The committee, which has asked Togo for clarification, has given itself until next November to make its observations,” said Binsard. As the procedure was not ‘contradictory’, the lawyers regretted not having had access to the file, as it meant they had no way of knowing whether the Togolese authorities had sent their answers.

CAR – François Bozizé, the president-maquisard

The months pass by and seem pretty much the same to the former Central African head of state. François Bozizé, who was prevented from running in the December 2020 presidential election, subsequently supported the Coalition des Patriotes pour le Changement (CPC, a coalition of armed groups), which he has officially coordinated since March. Wanted for conspiracy and rebellion by the Central African justice system, which opened a judicial investigation against him and several opposition figures in January, the former head of state went underground at the beginning of the year.

A refugee in the border area between the CAR and Chad, he is now surrounded by only a handful of loyal followers, who ensure his safety and manage his daily life in the bush areas that serve as a refuge. Although he left the presidency of his party – the Kwa Na Kwa – to his former lieutenant Christian Guénébem in March, Bozizé still maintains regular contact with some of his relatives, notably his son Jean-Francis. The latter, who is also in exile in his own country, visits him frequently.

The 74-year-old former president – who is also the target of a UN arrest warrant that was issued in 2014, which was never implemented – remains in contact with representatives from the Communauté Économique des États de l’Afrique Centrale (CEEAC) – notably Angolan – who would like to hold a national dialogue in Bangui. Although President Joao Lourenço’s men have not given up on the idea of involving Bozizé in the discussions, CAR President Faustin-Archange Touadéra, who is still supported by his Russian allies, remains firmly opposed to it.

According to our information, negotiations are underway – at the very least – to find another way out for the former president if he agrees to disassociate himself from the CPC, i.e. a place of exile where his safety would be guaranteed. Despite rumours that he is in poor health – even after a recent operation – those close to him say that the former head of state is doing well.

Chad – Tom Erdimi, an Egyptian mystery

Where has Tom Erdimi gone? The former president of the University of N’Djamena, nephew of Idriss Déby Itno and first director of his uncle’s civil cabinet in 1991 is the subject – just like his twin brother Timan – of an international arrest warrant that the Chadian authorities issued in 2007 for rebellion.

Sentenced to death in absentia in 2008 – at the same time as his brother – for participating in an attempt to overthrow the government in 2005, the 66-year-old Chadian lived – until recently – in exile in the US, in Houston, Texas. In the 1990s, he had made valuable contacts there when he was in charge of the Chadian oil project.

However, Zaghawa has been missing since the end of 2020. Those close to him believe that he was arrested in Egypt in September while on a visit to Cairo, where some of his family live and where he had filed an asylum application, which is still under examination. According to our information, Tom Erdimi’s last contact with his family was at the beginning of November. Furthermore, his relatives suspect that the Chadian is being held incommunicado in an intelligence prison, but there has been no confirmation.

Part of the Erdimi family accuses the Chadian authorities – and in particular the National Security Agency – of having instigated this arrest and believe he was secretly extradited to Chad. However, we contacted Timan Erdimi, who has been exiled under surveillance in Qatar since 2009, following an agreement between Idriss Déby Itno and Sudan’s former president Omar al-Bashir – who believes that his twin brother is still in Egypt.

The Chadian authorities, who have not said anything, stated – off the record – that they had nothing to do with the arrest. Even though Chad is due to hold a national dialogue soon, Timan Erdimi says he has not been invited to participate in it.

Equatorial Guinea – Salomon Abeso Ndong, exiled in London

Malabo’s justice system has accused Salomon Abeso Ndong of being one of the masterminds behind a foiled coup attempt that took place at the end of December 2017. An activist exiled in London for many years, the president of the Coalition d’Opposition pour la Restauration d’un État Démocratique (Cored) was sentenced in absentia, just like the exiled oppositionist in Spain Severo Moto Nsa (already sentenced to more than 100 years in prison for another alleged coup attempt in 2004), to 59 years in prison.

Ndong, who still has a website on which he regularly publishes opinion pieces about his country, fiercely denies any involvement in the events of 2017. He also accuses President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of being ‘the instigator of a false coup d’état intended to destroy all the opposition.’ The Equatorial Guinean judiciary has sentenced some 130 people, tried for their alleged involvement, to prison terms ranging from three to 96 years.

Regularly present in Paris during the trial hearings for the ‘ill-gotten gains’ of Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mangue, vice-president and the head of state’s son, the 50-year-old has never been the subject of an extradition request made by Malabo and addressed to the British authorities. According to our information, he has even been discussing – with his country’s intermediaries – the possibility of participating in a national dialogue and returning to Equatorial Guinea. There is still a long way to go. The Cored boss is calling on either the European Union or the UN to guarantee him amnesty. In addition, in Malabo, the clan that is gathered around the vice-president is reluctant to make the slightest gesture towards their opponents.

Morocco – Mohamed Hajib, a jihadist in Düsseldorf

Mohamed Hajib – with his round face, checkered duckbill cap and bushy sideburns – has a good-natured look, one that resembles more of a rocker straight out of the 1970s than a jihadist from the 2000s.

However, the 40-year-old, who presents himself as a follower of the proselytising Jamaat Al Tabligh movement, is one of the Moroccan security services’ most wanted men. In fact, the kingdom, in conjunction with Interpol, issued an international arrest warrant against him on 13 August 2020. This has led several experts from within diplomatic circles to say this case best encapsulates the tension between Morocco and Germany, where Hajib now lives and whose nationality he has held since 2008.

Hajib was condemned in Morocco for ‘terrorism’ as well as ’forming a criminal gang’ in 2010, and then released in 2017 after the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention led a campaign on his behalf. This son of an Arabic teacher, who was a far-left activist during the 1970s, has several obsessions: the monarch, whom he refers to throughout his videos as the ‘Resident General’ – in reference to the French administrators who were in charge of Morocco when it was a protectorate; and the Moroccan police, especially his boss – Abdellatif Hammouchi – whom he sees at work everywhere.

Very active on social media, Hajib is constantly developing all sorts of conspiracy theories about them for his live shows and regularly calls on Moroccans to rise up.

Recently, in March 2021, he posted a video on his YouTube channel from the Düsseldorf area, in which he called on his compatriots who want to end their lives to do so with ‘honour’ and in a ‘useful’ way. In other words, rather than kill themselves, they should commit suicide attacks. These incitements to violence have provoked strong reactions in the kingdom, including within Salafist and Islamist circles. However, this ‘apology for terrorism’ remains unpunished in Germany, despite the Moroccan authorities’ regular calls to settle the case of Hajib, who, according to Rabat, is a direct threat to national security.

Djibouti – Mohamed Kadamy, the eternal rebel

No corruption list would be complete without him. An ontological – and radical – opponent of both Presidents Hassan Gouled and Ismaïl Omar Guelleh’s regimes ever since independence was won in 1977, Mohamed Kadamy lives in exile in the Paris region, from where he continues to tirelessly advocate for the fall of the current head of state.

He was an activist and then leader of the Front pour la Restauration de l’Unité et de la Démocratie (Frud), an armed rebellion movement created in 1991, that recruits almost all of its members from the Afar community. Furthermore, this close relative of Djibouti’s current prime minister Abdoulkader Kamil Mohamed was one of the principal actors of the civil war that bloodied this small country until the end of the 1990s.

He was extradited from Ethiopia, imprisoned – along with his wife – and then released under the 2000 peace accords. Determined to continue with the armed resistance, he went into exile in France, where he was granted political refugee status in 2006.

Kadamy is now the leader of the radical branch of Frud, whose militants occasionally make armed incursions into the Afar zone from Eritrean territory. Furthermore, he was indicted at the beginning of 2019 by Judge Serge Tournaire, following the issuance of an international rogatory commission set up by the Djibouti prosecutor – who also requested his extradition.

This was because he claimed that Kadamy had been responsible for an attack that took place in 2015 in the region of Tadjourah. After the Communist Party and La France Insoumise led a support campaign, Kadamy’s extradition was refused and his indictment was lifted at the end of 2020.

Since then, the old leader has resumed his meetings with the Djiboutian diaspora and his followers on social media. However, he has become cautious and no longer explicitly calls for an armed struggle, contenting himself with the hope that a transitional power will be established by democratic means.

The former Afar prisoner of Gabodé’s objective is to drive out “the Mamassan elites” (the Issa clan from which President Guelleh comes), who “are leading the country towards the abyss” after having committed “hundreds of massacres” (sic). He said this on 8 July, during an interview with a Djiboutian opposition web TV station.

When we questioned him in April 2019 about the rumour that he was in negotiations with Kadamy, Guelleh brushed it aside and then said: “neither he nor we want him.” It is difficult to sum up the situation better.

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