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Côte d’Ivoire / France16 April 2009

Five years of unanswered questions since journalist’s abduction in Abidjan

A demonstration marking the fifth anniversary of Canadian-French journalist Guy-André Kieffer’s abduction and disappearance in Abidjan was held at 1 p.m. today in Bastille Square in Paris by his family, Kieffer support committees and Reporters Without Borders.

Dozens of people gathered on the steps of the Bastille Opera facing a man representing a reporter who has been prevented from doing his job. The demonstrators placed their hands over their eyes, ears or mouth to represent the lack of transparency since Kieffer went missing.

“Five long years have passed without the truth being established about Guy-André’s fate,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The silence and impunity are unbearable for his family and have gone on too long. We reiterate our hope that the French judicial authorities will be able to do their job with complete independence in cooperation with the Ivorian authorities, that all those who have been subpoenaed are finally questioned, and that witnesses with key information are protected from any pressure.”

Aged 54 at the time of his abduction, Kieffer had worked for the French business daily La Tribune before going to live in Côte d’Ivoire in 2002. In Abidjan, he freelanced for La Lettre du Continent, a France-based publication about Africa, and other specialist magazines. He also wrote under a pseudonym for the Ivorian press.

As an expert in commodities, business and finance, he specialised on covering cacao, of which Côte d’Ivoire is the world’s leading exporter.

Kieffer was kidnapped from an Abidjan supermarket parking lot on 16 April 2004 after been lured there by Michel Legré, the brother-in-law of President Laurent Gbagbo’s wife, Simone Gbagbo. French investigating judge Patrick Ramaël indicted Legré on 21 October 2004 on a charge of “abducting and holding” Kieffer.

After 18 months in an Abidjan detention centre, Legré was supposedly placed under house arrest in Abidjan but in fact he is moving about the city freely and has even been abroad.

Jean-Tony Oulaï, an Ivorian citizen who claims to have been a captain in the Ivorian army, was detained while in France on January 2006 and indicted on the same charge of “abducting and holding” Kieffer. Certain witnesses allege that he supervised Kieffer’s abduction. He continues to be detained in France.

The French investigation has been handicapped by the fraught nature of relations between France and Côte d’Ivoire, the difficulty of conducting enquiries in Abidjan and the code of silence observed by those involved, who are all close to President Gbagbo.

See the full chronology (in French)

In this country
6 May - Côte d’Ivoire / France
French photographer freed after being held for 16 months in Abidjan
8 April - Côte d’Ivoire / France
Open letter to President Sarkozy about French journalist who disappeared five years ago
1 April - Côte d’Ivoire
Judge frees Le Repère journalist but imposes heavy fine on him and his editor
24 March - Côte d’Ivoire
Examining judge orders release of French journalist but prosecutor appeals
7 October - Cote d’Ivoire / France
Witness claims pressure from French presidency in Guy-André Kieffer kidnap case

in the annual report
Côte d’Ivoire - Annual Report 2007
Cote d’Ivoire - Annual report 2006

Africa press releases
3 June - Somalia
Alarm at TV station director’s abduction near Mogadishu
27 May - Gabon
Government imposes news blackout on President Bongo’s health
26 May - Somalia
Radio reporter shot by militia dies of injuries, fourth journalist to be killed this year

africa archives

18 March 2009 - Democratic Republic of Congo
“Bukavu, murder city”: investigation report into murders of journalists in the capital of Sud-Kivu
21 May 2008 - Eritrea
Naizghi Kiflu, the dictatorship’s eminence grise
6 March 2008 - Kenya
"How far to go ?" Kenya’s media caught in the turmoil of a failed election

Sign the petitions
Sign the petition for the release of ten Eritrean journalists