Côte d’Ivoire: Cocoa magnate who supports Bédié arrested
Jacques Mangoua, Vice President of the Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI), will be tried in court tomorrow October 3 after he was arrested on Monday evening in connection with the discovery of ammunition and about 40 machetes in his home.
Mangoua, who is also President of the Gbêkê regional council, spent Monday night in a cell at the Bouaké Remand Prison. Bouaké is Côte d’Ivoire’s second-largest city.
He “was placed under a warrant for the illegal possession of 991 assault rifle rounds, 49 12-gauge rifle rounds, and 40 machetes,” Bouaké prosecutor, Bramane Koné, explained to Jeune Afrique.
“Jacques Mangoua was unable to justify the presence of these weapons. It is a material offence. We have therefore opened a flagrante delicto procedure,” the prosecutor explained.
Search in his absence
The weapons in question were discovered on September 21 by a guard at Mangoua’s home, a one-hectare property located in N’Guessankro, his native village in the region of Béoumi, 60 kilometres west of Bouaké.
A search was carried out in his absence — Mangoua was travelling to Abidjan at the time — but in the presence of his brother, a tribal chief and the guard.
In a statement dated September 29, the PDCI referred to arbitrary detention and demanded his release. His relatives have denounced the move as a political plot, with some explaining that Mangoua had been pressured in recent weeks.
During his interrogation, Mangoua indicated that he did not know how these weapons got into his home. He also explained that he had received threats via SMS from suppliers who were dissatisfied that they had not been paid.
“Wait and see what happens to you in the next few days,” a September 7 message said. Mangoua filed a complaint with Ivorian prosecutors on September 26, the day before he was summoned to court.
“The complaint is being investigated and we are working to discover the identity of the number that made the threat. But why didn’t you report this earlier?” Kone asked.
Discreet man close to Bédié
Mangoua, 64, is an executive of the party led by Henri Konan Bédié. He joined in 1994 and has been one of the party’s Vice Presidents since 2013. With significant resources, he regularly finances the PDCI’s activities. Mangoua is considered the strong man of the party in this region.
Mangoua is close to Bédié, known as the ‘sphinx of Daoukro’. In April 2018, when former President Bédié visited Ghana at the invitation of King of the Ashanti – a highly symbolic visit – Mangoua was part of the delegation.
Mangoua began his career at the Ivorian Textile Development Company (based in Bouaké) where he worked for more than 15 years before creating his own agricultural export company. As President of the General Council of Béoumi in 2002, he was a privileged witness to the arrival of the rebel group the New Forces (FN) and the group’s disastrous coexistence with different communities.
Cocoa career and suspicions of diversion
A cocoa magnate, he held several positions of responsibility in the sector. He was Vice President of the Coffee and cocoa exchange and President of the Exporters’ union. In 2008, he was the victim of the vast shake-out of the sector led by former President Laurent Gbagbo. At the time, some 30 cocoa barons were accused of embezzling a large part of the funds intended to help producers since 2001.
Mangoua was then in charge of the Guarantee Fund for Coffee and Cocoa Cooperatives (FGCCC), a private structure in which the State held a 10% stake, which was used to guarantee bank loans to Ivorian operators. The FGCCC was suspected of financing non-existent cooperatives.
Mangoua was arrested in June 2008, but he was provisionally released in May 2010 for health reasons. The trial against Mangoua and other barons in the sector, who were charged with embezzlement, abuse of corporate assets and forgery and use of forgeries, began in 2012.
However, charges against Mangoua was dismissed in November 2013.
But by then Mangoua had been forced to waive his right to stand in the April 2013 regional elections in Gbêké. Five years later, Bédié chose him as the PDCI candidate for the region over Jean Kouassi Abonouan, then president of the regional council, and Minister Jean-Claude Kouassi.
Kouassi and Abonouan were Mangoua’s opponents from the Rally of Houphouëtists for Democracy and Peace (RHDP). Mangoua won the day because of his strong presence in the region, particularly in the villages.
Since that episode, the tension between the region’s political leaders had never really subsided, and it was in this context that intra-community clashes between the Baule and Malinke broke out in Béoumi, killing 14 people, injuring around 100 and displacing 500.
This article first appeared in Jeune Afrique.