Investigation into reporter’s disappearance in Côte d’Ivoire must be reactivated
With just days to go to the 15th anniversary of French and Canadian journalist Guy-André Kieffer’s mysterious disappearance in Côte d’Ivoire, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the French and Ivorian authorities to keep their promises to shed all possible light on the case.
Kieffer was abducted on 16 April 2004 from the parking lot of an Abidjan supermarket, where he had arranged to meet Michel Legré, an associate of then President Laurent Gbagbo and brother-in-law of Gbagbo’s wife, Simone Gbagbo.
What happened to Kieffer after his abduction is still a complete mystery. At the time of his disappearance, he had been investigating shady practices in the production and export of cocoa, of which Côte d’Ivoire is the world’s leading producer.
“After years of investigation, many questions remain unanswered,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “Who was behind Guy-André Kieffer’s disappearance? What was the real motive? What happened after his abduction? Where was he taken? In reality, we know only one thing for sure, that he was kidnapped. Those implicated in the plan to silence him have never been properly prosecuted.”
During a visit by RSF to Abidjan in 2014, President Alassane Ouattara promised to do everything possible “to ensure that light is shed on this case and to find out what happened.” He also asked the justice ministry and the public prosecutor to keep him abreast of any developments in the investigation. The same year, the French president told RSF that solving this case continued to be a “priority for France.”
“Fifteen years have gone by and, despite repeated promises by the Ivorian and French authorities, no significant progress has been made in recent years,” said Assane Diagne, the head of RSF’s West Africa office. “There is an urgent need for those involved to start talking and for the authorities of both countries to put words into action. It would be unacceptable if the judicial authorities in both countries were to close this case when all the witness have not been questioned and all those implicated have not been arrested.”
The absence of progress is all the more disturbing because some of the key protagonists are now dead. Legré, the person Kieffer had arranged to meet on the day he disappeared, died in 2016. He initially acknowledged being used at the regime’s behest as a bait to lure Kieffer, but then retracted. Then finance minister Paul-Antoine Bohoun Bouabré, whose name was often mentioned in connection with the case, died in 2012.
Simone Gbagbo’s chief bodyguard, Anselme Seka Yao, also known as Séka Séka, was accused by a former head of a pro-Gbagbo militia of murdering Kieffer and burning his body on Simone Gbagbo’s orders. None of these people have even been prosecuted by the judicial authorities.
Côte d’Ivoire is ranked 82nd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.