French President Nicolas Sarkozy yesterday promised the family of missing journalist Guy-André Kieffer, a French-Canadian dual national, that he would help to try to solve the mystery of his disappearance in Abidjan in April 2004.
President Sarkozy gave his promise when he received Kieffer’s wife, Osange Silou-Kieffer, his daughter, Canelle Kieffer, his brothers Bernard and Eric Kieffer, and his nephew, David-Alexandre Kieffer, at the Elysée Palace in Paris.
Osange Silou-Kieffer said afterwards she was “delighted” by Sarkozy’s warm reception and pledges. “We had been requesting a meeting with the French president to talk about the case for three years,” she said. “We finally got a meeting, but above all we have obtained commitments from him as regards the case. This gives us hope that justice will be done.”
Sarkozy said his government would give the French judges the resources they need to do their job, above all, to interview all the witnesses and suspected perpetrators of Kieffer’s abduction and presumed murder. He said he would ask the French ambassador in Côte d’Ivoire to put all his efforts into this “important” case.
The family asked the French government to intervene with the Ivorian authorities to get the obstacles lifted, above all so that a leading suspect, Michel Legré, the brother-in-law of the Ivorian president’s wife, Simone Gbagbo, can be questioned by the judicial authorities in France. On leaving the Elysée Palace, Silou-Kieffer said she hoped Sarkozy would remind President Laurent Gbagbo of the promises made to the family and Reporters Without Borders to shed light on all aspects of the case.
An agronomy graduate who wrote about commodities, Kieffer went missing on 16 April 2004 in Abidjan, where he had been based since early 2002 working as freelancer for La lettre du Continent and several Ivorian newspapers. Before going to Côte d’Ivoire, he had worked for the French business daily La Tribune since 1984. Legré has admitted seeing Kieffer in the parking lot of an Abidjan shopping centre on the day of his disappearance.
An investigation into the case by French judges Patrick Ramaël and Emmanuelle Ducos has established that, at the time of his disappearance, Kieffer was investigating the embezzlement of funds in the coffee and cacao markets in Côte d’Ivoire, the world’s biggest producer of cacao, and they suspect he may have been kidnapped and then presumably killed by persons close to the president.
Ramaël formally opened an investigation into Legré on 21 October 2004 on suspicion of “abducting and holding” Kieffer. On 13 December 2004, he requested Legré’s transfer to France for two months for questioning. This request has never been met. Legré was held in an Abidjan detention centre for a year and half before being granted a provisional release in October 2005.
Jean-Tony Oulaï, an Ivorian citizen who claims to have been a captain in the Ivorian army, was also formally placed under investigation in France in January 2006 on suspicion of “abducting and holding” Kieffer. He is subject to French judicial control. Some witnesses allege that he supervised Kieffer’s abduction.