Around 30 activists from Reporters Without Borders and the “Truth for Guy-André Kieffer” committee staged a protest at Côte d’Ivoire’s stand at the Chocolate Exhibition in Paris today to draw attention to the fact that French-Canadian journalist Guy-André Kieffer had been investigating the country’s cacao industry at the time of his disappearance in April 2004 in Abidjan.
They affixed adhesive ribbons and stickers to Côte d’Ivoire’s stand, and distributed leaflets with Kieffer’s photo headlined: “Cacao can kill in Côte d’Ivoire - what did Guy-André Kieffer know ?” Kieffer’s wife and other members of his family were among those taking part in the demonstration, which took place on the first day of the three-day exhibition.
“This cowardly kidnapping was organised by members of the president’s entourage,” Reporters Without Borders said. “A terrifying scenario has emerged from two and a half years of investigation. Kieffer knew too much about the ruling clan’s scheming and about the money generated by cacao, of which Côte d’Ivoire is the world’s leading producer.”
The press freedom organisation added: “It is essential that visitors to the Chocolate Exhibition know what goes on behind the scenes, and that the Ivorian cacao market conceals sordid goings-on.”
The leaflet distributed to visitors said:
“French-Canadian journalist Guy-André Kieffer was kidnapped from an Abidjan supermarket parking lot on 16 April 2004 after been lured there by a member of President Laurent Gbagbo’s entourage. Since then his family and friends have not received any word of him.
“The enquiries carried out by a French judge have revealed that this journalist, a specialist in commodities, was investigating the embezzlement of funds within the coffee and cacao markets in Côte d’Ivoire. He upset the government by exposing its hidden face and its methods of obtaining dirty money, which lies at the heart of the civil war.
“What did Guy-André Kieffer know? That cacao can kill. That chocolate money is mixed with blood. And that a journalist can pay a high price for wanting to know the truth. In this journalist’s name, we demand to know the truth, too.”
The use of adhesive ribbon in this protest was inspired by its use by the “Free Tibet Project”: www.freetibetproject.com
A specialist in commodities and business, Kieffer worked for the French business daily La Tribune from 1984 to early 2002, when he moved to Côte d’Ivoire’s business capital, Abidjan, and began freelancing for La Lettre du Continent and several Ivorian newspapers.
Michel Legré, the brother-in-law of President Laurent Gbagbo’s wife, was the last person to see Kieffer before he went missing. French investigating judge Patrick Ramaël began investigating him on 21 October 2004 on suspicion of “abducting and holding” Kieffer. Legré was held in an Abidjan detention centre for a year and half before being placed under house arrest.
Ramaël requested Legré’s temporary transfer to France for questioning, but the Ivorian authorities have still not approved the request. Jean-Tony Oulaï, an Ivorian citizen who claims to have been a captain in the Ivorian army, is now also under investigation in France on suspicion of “abducting and holding” Kieffer and is under the control of the French judicial authorities. Certain witnesses allege that he supervised Kieffer’s abduction.