Cote d'Ivoire: Hollande Asked to Raise Journalist's Disappearance With Visiting Ivorian President

press release

The family of Guy-André Kieffer, a journalist with French and Canadian dual nationality who disappeared in Abidjan in 2004, and two allied groups have written to French President François Hollande asking him to raise Kieffer's disappearance when he meets with Ivorian President Alassane Dramane Ouattara in the Elysée Palace tomorrow.

Signed by Canelle Kieffer, the journalist's daughter, Aline Richard, head of the Truth for Guy-André Kieffer Association, and Christophe Deloire, Reporters Without Borders secretary-general, the letter says:

"We are aware that you will have a lot of subjects to discuss but we think the French president should raise the case with his Ivorian counterpart, especially just days before the ninth anniversary of Guy-André's abduction.

"We have seen positive developments in Côte d'Ivoire in the past year or so - appointments of a new investigating judge and a prosecutor, and the work of the French judge facilitated. But we note with regret that the case has not advanced with sufficient speed and the truth about Guy-André's fate is still not known.

"This nonetheless concerns the disappearance of a French citizen and it is a case that, if solved, would send a strong signal as regards respect for media freedom and the fight against impunity in Côte d'Ivoire.

"We therefore ask you and the Ivorian president to reaffirm the determination of the highest authorities of France and Côte d'Ivoire to finally learn the truth."

Reporters Without Borders and the Truth for Guy-André Kieffer Association are registered as concerned "civilian parties" in the investigation that a French judge is conducting into the journalist's disappearance at the request of the family.

The family and the civilian parties are scheduled to meet with French foreign ministry officials on 16 April, which will be the ninth anniversary of Kieffer's disappearance.

Background

A specialist in covering commodities, trade and finance, Kieffer was kidnapped by gunmen from an Abidjan supermarket parking lot on 16 April 2004 after going there to meet Michel Legré, the brother-in-law of then President Laurent Gbagbo's wife, Simone Gbagbo. At the time of his disappearance, he had been looking into shady practices in the production and export of cocoa, of which Côte d'Ivoire is the world's leading producer.

Twelve days after his disappearance, his family filed a complaint in France accusing unidentified persons of kidnapping him. Reporters Without Borders registered as civil party in this case a few days later.

Judge Patrick Ramaël took charge of the case but his attempts to identify those responsible were hampered by the fraught relations between France and the Gbagbo government, the difficulty of investigating in Côte d'Ivoire, and the pact of silence observed by those suspected of involvement, who were all close to President Gbagbo.

Ramaël has nonetheless visited Côte d'Ivoire several times since Gbagbo's replacement as president by Alassane Ouattara in April 2011.

Nine years of international campaigning

During the nine years since his abduction, Kieffer's relatives and colleagues have never ceased to draw attention to his disappearance and the lack of progress in the investigation. On the first anniversary of his abduction, a vigil of singing and poetry-reading was organized at Chapelle des Lombards in Paris.

On the eve of the second anniversary, Reporters Without Borders, Osange Silou-Kieffer (Kieffer's wife), the Truth for Guy-André Kieffer Association and the Guy-André Kieffer Breton Support Committee dumped liquid cocoa and fake dollars outside the Côte d'Ivoire embassy in Paris.

A "What did Guy-André Kieffer know?" protest was held at Côte d'Ivoire's stand at the Chocolate Exhibition in Paris on 28 October 2006. "Where is Guy André Kieffer?" posters were put up in many parts of the Paris, including outside the Côte d'Ivoire embassy, on 16 April 2007.

The Lyon Press Club has meanwhile staged many events and demonstrations since 2004 in support of initiatives by Kieffer's Lyon-based family (including press and poster campaigns, concerts and conferences).

On the fifth anniversary, in 2009, the Kieffer family, support groups and Reporters Without Borders staged a demonstration on Bastille Square in Paris and an evening of music and poetry at the Cabaret Sauvage.

The following year, in April 2010, a news conference was held at Reporters Without Borders headquarters in Paris with the Kieffer family and representatives of support groups in attendance. A news conference was also held in Abidjan by the Guy-André Kieffer Ivorian Truth Collective with the support of the National Union of Journalists of Côte d'Ivoire (UNJCI).

Large posters of Kieffer (4 x 3 metres) were also posted for the first time on the streets and avenues of Abidjan for the sixth anniversary, while an evening of songs and poems were held at the Dapper Museum in Paris. In 2011, a march was organized from Place de la Bourse to Jardin des Tuileries in Paris.

On 16 April 2012, Osange Silou-Kieffer marked the eighth anniversary of her husband's disappearance by inviting the press and other interested persons to pay tribute to him at the shopping centre parking lot in Abidjan where he was seen for the last time. Members of the Guy-André Kieffer Ivorian Truth Collective also took part.

The next day, Osange Silou-Kieffer and Reporters Without Borders were received in Abidjan by President Ouattara, who promised that "no one will be protected."

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