“Oh, so is Kieffer dead?” is the ironic reply made to the French judge Patrick Ramaël by Captain Séka Séka, one of the chief suspects in the case of the disappearance in April 2004 of the journalist Guy- André Kieffer in Côte d’Ivoire. This economics expert, ex-reporter for the French daily La Tribune, was investigating the cocoa sector, among other things. It was a year after the murder of another French journalist, Jean Hélène, a Radio France internationale correspondent (RFI), shot in the head in Abidjan by a policeman on 21 October 2003.
Since 2012, the investigation on Guy-André Kieffer has not advanced one iota. Over ten years after the kidnapping of his brother by an armed commando in the centre of Abidjan, Bernard Kieffer is under no illusions. He says so, quite frankly, in this book which he has written in collaboration with the journalist Benoît Collombat: Guy- André, alias “GAK” (his initials), is dead. But who killed him, how and above all why?
Since the disappearance of GAK in 2004, after a brief period of disbelief, Bernard Kieffer threw himself into the search for the truth and for any trace of this brother that in the end he knew little about. This personal, not to say intimate, dimension, makes his book profoundly appealing, over and above the twists and turns of an extended judicial investigation. This lawyer specialising in water law, completely unfamiliar with Africa, immersed himself in the life of GAK in an attempt to understand what had happened to him. While the French authorities, as soon as his disappearance was known, created an unflattering portrait of the independent journalist, trying to make him look like an unscrupulous wheeler-dealer, the author does him justice in this book, showing his naive idealism, his tenacity and his thirst for justice for the most vulnerable. But he does not attempt to conceal his imprudence. Between the lines, he sketches a portrait of a complicated, secretive, contradictory man, flirting with the limits of professional ethics to achieve the goal that he had set himself.
The reader will not find in this book any startling revelations on the case itself, but instead an exhaustive summary of the investigation conducted by a stubborn examining judge. For years, the suspicion of the court was focused on the late Minister of Economics and Finance of Côte d’Ivoire, Paul-Antoine Bouhoun Bouabré (died beginning of 2012) and his immediate circle. Guy-André Kieffer had pushed this influential clan to its limits, close to ex-President Laurent Gbagbo (now imprisoned and awaiting trial in the Hague), by publishing scoops on the wrongdoing and financial improprieties of the regime in the French specialist journal La Lettre du Continent or – under transparent pseudonyms – in the local press.
The initial goal of his kidnapping was to frighten him. But the abduction went wrong. “I am inclined towards an accidental death, as a result of violence inflicted on him, causing confusion among those who commissioned his kidnapping and an unexpected splash in the press”, writes Bernard Kieffer. The author also dwells at length on the alleged role in the case of the Gbagbo couple. From the outset, the name of Simone Gbagbo was persistently mentioned: in April 2004, her brother-in-law, Michel Legré, acted as bait for the commando tasked with kidnapping the troublemaker. Questioned at the beginning of the case, he named many officials close to the presidency, including Séka Séka, the henchman of the former First Lady, before retracting. Several witnesses also confirmed to the judge that GAK had been interrogated in the basement of the presidential palace, before being taken to an unknown destination and disappearing permanently. But the Gbagbo couple have always denied any involvement.
Will the truth of Kieffer’s fate ever be known? Contrary to what those close to the journalist had hoped, Gbagbo’s overthrow did not help to unblock the investigation in Côte d’Ivoire. GAK’s body has never been found and some of the suspects are dead or have vanished, that is, when they have not been promoted by the new regime, like the banker Victor Nembellissini. This is probably one of the most disturbing aspects of the story: far from being willing to shed some light on the Kieffer case, the government of Alassane Ouattara has done nothing, as if it had decided to sacrifice the truth about GAK “on the altar of reconciliation”, fears his brother. It would probably take a lot more to make him give up. “I shall continue to look for my brother, wherever he is, by every path that I can find, convinced that the truth is hiding somewhere and that we have come close to it several times.” Like Guy- André, Bernard Kieffer belongs to a tenacious breed.
For over fifty years, Africa has been the laboratory for all sorts of development theories: catching up, opening up, structural adjustment, “bottom to top”, “human” or “sustainable” development, not forgetting “post-development” and alter-mondialism. There is a long list of the various plans or initiatives launched in these last decades: the Monrovia strategy for economic development (1979), the Lagos action plan (1980), the report on accelerated development in sub-Saharan Africa, or the Berg report (World Bank, 1981), the United Nations programme for the economic recovery and development of Africa (1986), the report on adjustment and growth in Africa, structural adjustment programmes (SAP), the African Charter for popular participation in development, not forgetting the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad, 2001)…
We must add to this list the idea of a “Marshall Plan” for Africa proposed in 2001 by the G8 in Genoa (Italy) when NEPAD was launched. The implementation of this plan, estimated at 100 billion dollars, relied essentially on official assistance and foreign investment. Presented a year later at the 2002 G8 meeting held in Kananaskis (Canada), this plan created immense hope among the African leaders, as such “special assistance” could finally have allowed Africa to take off.
Rather than waiting for these external inputs, the African leaders would do better to rely on their own resources believes the author, a Cameroonian expert. The money transfers sent by the diaspora and the financial resources of the African elites are a huge godsend. These completely independent sources of funding could be used in development… But how can the key element – trust – be rebuilt so that the African elites repatriate the 360 billion dollars deposited in foreign banks, safely tucked away from the corruption and crises of the continent? A revolution in attitudes is not just desirable, stresses the author. It is also possible, as demonstrated by Cameroon’s attempt to use local savings for a number of years through the concept of mandatory borrowing from savers.
Jacqueline Nkoyok’s essay makes this point, so frequently repeated: Africa needs strong, united states, capable of transcending the continent’s strategic dispersion inherited from colonialism and nurtured by the Western powers. It needs donors, who stand accused of blocking development with their lines of credit, according to the thinking of the Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo, author of L’Aide Fatale (Lattès, Paris, 2009). Another possible solution is for the self- organisation of small-scale farming communities, social movements in the urban centres, tontines, community health centres, housing, alternative energy, financing of micro-enterprises, cultural or literary clubs, associations of artists, researchers, scientists and business people.
“For the African countries to succeed in combining globalisation and human development, they will have to create alliances between all the actors and at every level”, adds Jacqueline Nkoyok who hails the initiative of the Nigerian business leader and philanthropist Tony Elumelu. This acclaimed “Africapitalist”, boss of the investment company Heirs Holding, wants to offer 100 million dollars (80 million euros) over the next ten years to 10,000 entrepreneurs throughout Africa, in the framework of his Entrepreneurship Programme. An initial selection of 1,000 applicants from the more than 20,000 applications received has already been made (Francophones accounting for only 10%), focusing especially on agricultural projects. By developing young talent, this programme is trying to “institutionalise opportunity” - another development lever.
In his investigation, for a thesis, conducted in Rwanda after it was devastated by genocide in 1994, but was already in full reconstruction mode, Benoît Guillou, former editor-in-chief of La chronique d’Amnesty International, tells the post-genocide story of Musha, a small village situated 40 km east of Kigali. He recounts the living conditions of the Tutsi survivors and the annual genocide commemorations. We are told of the establishment of traditional courts, the gacaca, structures allowing the Rwandans to be involved in the trials of the alleged authors of the genocide. For the purposes of his research, the author interviewed Hutu and Tutsi peasants, but also prisoners in the Kigali central jail and the Rilima penitentiary. He also met with Catholic clergy, intellectuals and people from the middle class in Kigali.
These testimonies confirmed the problematic cohabitation between the genocidal Hutus and the Tutsi survivors. On both sides, resistance to forgiveness can be seen, particularly on the part of the genocide survivors. Some are willing to forgive, but only if the guilty person makes the first move, agrees to repent and make amends. This attitude may also be adopted by those who committed genocide, who sometimes find it an impossible task to ask for forgiveness. Promoted by the state and the Catholic Church, the rhetoric of confession, forgiveness and repentance seems alien to the daily lives of faithful Christians, filled with desires for revenge. The Hutus, as victims of the genocide too, are also demanding recognition of the crimes committed against their community for which forgiveness should be sought. For example, the Hutus encountered by the author mentioned the suffering and injustices of which they were the victims. They denounce the “law of silence” surrounding the crimes committed by the former rebel movement of the Front patriotique rwandais (FPR), in power in Kigali since 1994.
The study shows that the request for forgiveness and its acceptance seems broadly compromised in both camps, a state of affairs that is hindering progress towards the national reconciliation desired by the Rwandan government. Can one live in peace with oneself and build a new life in all serenity without having forgiven, asks the author? However, some Hutu criminals and their Tutsi victims have decided to take part in this process of forgiveness. Take for example the case of Xavérine, a Tutsi widow: after having engaged in vengeance, she became involved in a radical conversion process, and without waiting for a sign from those who committed genocide, nor the action of the courts, she agreed to forgive the murderers of her family. Xavérine has even established an astonishing mother-son relationship with one of the murderers of her son.
The theme of forgiveness also interests the intellectuals. Benoît Guillou highlights the original work of a group of Rwandan and foreign intellectuals who met in Germany in December 1996; their call for forgiveness proposes three successive confessions: the first on behalf of the Hutus, the second on behalf of the Tutsis, and the third on behalf of the foreigners involved. In this approach, the act of repentance is regarded as a collective act and put at the heart of a mechanism whose aim is to restore the social connection. It represents a way of binding the wounds and preventing new crises in Rwanda.
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