18 April 2012

President vows to reopen case of missing reporter

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Eight years after Franco-Canadian journalist Guy-André Kieffer mysteriously disappeared in Abidjan, his case might get a second wind with Côte d'Ivoire's new President promising a special commission of enquiry, says Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

RSF, which was on mission in Abidjan with Kieffer's wife, Osange Silou-Kieffer, met with President Alassane Ouattara on 17 April, nearly eight years to the day that Kieffer was abducted from an Abidjan shopping mall.

The President vowed that no one was above the law, and that a special commission of enquiry would be set up. He added that the Ivorian justice would cooperate fully with the French judge in charge of the case.

According to RSF, which has been helping the family since 2004 and is a registered party in the French judicial investigation into Kieffer's disappearance, the investigation had not made any major progress prior to their mission.

"The investigation is not progressing quickly enough and the changes since last year have not met our expectations," said RSF, referring to the change in government last April.

Kieffer, who was 54 when he disappeared, was in Abidjan investigating shady deals in the Ivorian cocoa sector, which involved top government officials. At the mall car park, he was meant to meet Michel Legré, a relative of the former Ivorian President's wife, Simone Gbagbo.

Kieffer's family has maintained he was targeted by Laurent Gbagbo's government for his reporting, and says he spent two days in a jail cell at the presidential palace after he went missing. The former government denied any involvement in his disappearance.

His family said elements in Gbagbo's entourage wanted to eliminate Kieffer after several of his articles claimed that kickbacks from cocoa exports were being used to purchase arms for the civil war against rebels in the north.

Osange and RSF also marked the anniversary of his abduction at a demonstration on 16 April at 1pm in the car park, the time and place where he was last seen. More than 40 journalists joined them, wearing Kieffer replica press cards around their necks.

"I am very moved to be here today at the very place where my husband disappeared, and to have so many people here to support me," Osange said. "I have come here to pay homage to him but also and above all to say that we will not give up. We are determined to know what happened, to know the truth."

RSF reported that a skeleton was discovered early this year in a forest in Côte d'Ivoire that many believed was Andre-Kieffer's, but a DNA investigation showed otherwise.

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