Le résistible leadership d’Houphouët-Boigny

Cinquante-six années durant, de 1937 à 1993, Félix Houphouët-Boigny (1905-1993) excerça un leadership multiple : traditionnel, syndical, politique, parlementaire et gouvernemental. Je continue ici mon exploration de la longue et complexe carrière du “père-fondateur” de la république de Côte d’Ivoire. Dans une première partie je  réfute et clarifie quelques assertions du “Vieux” sur la Guinée. Dans la deuxième partie, je passe en revue  son  leadership, qui, en tant que philosophie et pratique, résista plus d’un demi-siècle. Et qui, bien que balloté, survit aujourd’hui en Côte d’Ivoire. Dans un état plus que jamais résistible.

Sources

Tour à tour description, commentaire et analyse, cet article s’inspire et exploite les sources suivantes :

Note. Je n’ai pas encore eu les ouvrages de Grah Mel sous la main. Je compte toutefois les présenter ici ou sur webAfriqa.

Première Partie
Réfutations et Clarifications

Sans perdre de vue, le rôle et la place d’Houphouët dans la Françafrique, je me concentre sur la dimension africaine du personnage et son influence déterminante sur l’évolution et l’implosion politiques de la Guinée. D’où la nécessité et l’utilité de réfuter et de clarifier un aspect des rapports initiaux entre  Sékou Touré et Félix Houphouët-Boigny.

Souvenir inexact

Houphouët-Boigny déclare :

« … un beau jour, on m’a appris qu’il y avait là-bas un jeune syndicaliste qui voulait rallumer le flambeau de la lutte du RDA. C’était Sékou Touré. Je me suis déplacé, je l’ai rencontré chez sa grand-tante qui me l’a recommandé…»

Date de rencontre erronée

Cette rencontre remonte vraisemblablement à 1951. Mais la remémoration est absolument inexacte. Car Houphouët-Boigny avait déjà fait la connaissance de Sékou Touré. Au Congrès constitutif du RDA en octobre 1946 à Bamako ! Sékou fit partie de la délégation guinéenne. Pierre Kipé, en témoigne dans le livre sus-mentionné.

Emergence de Sékou Touré

Ibrahima Baba Kaké écrit :

“Dès le départ Sékou Touré devient l’homme fort du RDA en Guinée.”

Erreur. L’arrivée de Sékou au devant de la scène publique fut différée de quatre ans : de 1947 à 1951. Des hommes plus âgés et de statut social plus élevé tinrent la barre du de la section guinéenne du RDA. Celle-ci fut créée en mai 1947 sous l’égide de Madeira Keita. Les principaux collaborateurs de celui-ci étaient:

Le jeune Sékou Touré venait au 5ème rang de la hiérarchie. Il était alors le secrétaire général adjoint du syndicat USCG. Au sein du comité directeur il partageait les responsabilités du poste des affaires économiques et sociales avec Nfa Mohamed Touré (commis des finances) et Fatoumata Ciré Bah (secrétaire du greffe et des parquets).
Houphouët-Boigny connaissait Sékou Touré depuis 1946 donc. D’où la fausseté du souvenir rappelé plus haut.

Houphouët-Boigny et les cousins Touré

Houphouët continue :

« Je l’ai (Sékou Touré) fait venir à Abidjan avec son cousin, Petit Touré, époux de ma propre nièce. Celui-là aussi n’est plus. »

Avant la montée au pouvoir de deux leaders du Rassemblement démocratique africain : l'Ivoirien Houphouët-Boigny (le parrain) et le Guinéen Sékou Touré (le poulain) modestement habillés et attablés, circa 1954.
Avant la montée au pouvoir de deux leaders du Rassemblement démocratique africain : l’Ivoirien Houphouët-Boigny (le parrain) et le Guinéen Sékou Touré (le poulain) modestement habillés et attablés, circa 1954.

Bailleur de fonds

Houphouët-Boigny ne se contenta pas seulement d’inviter Sékou Touré à Abidjan. Bien au contraire, il fut son bailleur de fonds. Il le soutint financièrement, lui prodiguant  conseils et lui apportant la solidarité du Rassemblement démocratique africain. Mieux, à partir de 1954, Bernard Cornut-Gentille, Gouverneur général de l’Afrique Occidentale Française,  se joignit à l’Ivoirien dans le parrainage de Sékou Touré. La bienveillante protection des deux hommes éperonna la montée en flèche de Sékou au pouvoir  Nous verrons plus loin que le poulain se retournera contre ses parrains.

Cynisme ou sénilité

Houphouët-Boigny parle laconiquement de Petit Touré et de sa mort. Mais il ne dit pas comment, où et quand ? A lire ce passage on pourrait conclure que Petit Touré fut emporté par la maladie ou un accident de circulation. Hélas, macabre et tragique, la réalité est toute autre. Car Sékou Touré fut la cause de la disparition de Petit Touré. C’est sur son ordre que ce dernier périt de faim et de soif (diète noire) au Camp Boiro en 1965. Et quel fut son “crime” ? Il avait déposé la demande d’agrément et les statuts d’un parti d’opposition au PDG : le Parti de l’Unité Nationale de Guinée. Aux yeux de Sékou Touré c’était là un forfait punissable de mort. Le Vieux aurait dû saisir l’occasion du Colloque d’Abidjan pour réhabiliter la mémoire de Petit Touré. Mais non, par cynisme et/ou sénilité, il  se borna à verser des larmes de crocodile et à propager une image retouchée et trompeuse du dictateur guinéen.

Installés au pouvoir et présidents à vie de la Côte d'Ivoire et de la Guinée, Houphouët-Boigny et Sékou Touré sont conduits en Cadillac décapotable à Conakry en 1962 (Photo: Information Côte d'Ivoire)
Installés au pouvoir et présidents à vie de la Côte d’Ivoire et de la Guinée, respectivement, Houphouët-Boigny et Sékou Touré sont conduits en Cadillac décapotable à Conakry en 1962 (Photo: Information Côte d’Ivoire)

Notice biographique

Le nom de baptême du futur leader est Oufoué Djaa. Plus tard, converti au catholicisme, diplômé de l’Ecole William Ponty et jouissant du statut d’“évolué”, il francisa son nom en Félix Houphouët-Boigny. Boigny désigne le bélier en langue baulé. Le site Archive suggère que l’âge est tronqué. Il aurait vu le jour huit ans avant 1905, qui est la date consignée sur son acte de naissance ou jugement supplétif. Il appartiendrait donc à la génération de 1897, l’année précédente de l’arrestation de l’empereur Samori Touré à Guélémou, dans le territoire de la future Côte d’Ivoire.
Houphouët-Boigny se maria deux fois. Comme indiqué dans Le “vide guinéen” selon Houphouët-Boigny, il épousa Khadija Racine Sow (1913-2006) en 1930 à Abengourou. Le couple divorça en 1952. Et Houphouët resta “célibataire” pendant 10 ans ans. En 1962 il se remaria avec Marie-Thérèse Brou, sa cadette de 25 ans. Ces secondes noces connurent des scandales. Car les époux menaient chacun une vie extra-maritale. Félix engendra une fillette hors-mariage. Pour sa part, volage et portée aux escapades, Thérèse s’absenta au moins une fois du foyer en 1957 pour une randonnée avec un Italien à Milan. Et elle compta Sékou Touré parmi ses amants. André Lewin signale que les deux amoureux eurent une intense et brève liaison.

A noter que le premier président guinéen récidiva dans les années 1970 en ajoutant Mme. William Tolbert à la liste de ses trophées féminins (Voir l’énumération —très partielle— des quelque 13 épouses et maîtresses). Sékou Touré mourut comme il avait vécu, emporté par une libido débridée et le tabagisme. Sur la table d’opération de la Clinique de Cleveland, les chirurgiens tentèrent en vain de le sauver de la syphilis cardiaque et de la sclérose des artères coronaire et pulmonaire. Lire Sékou Touré : la mort américaine.

Deuxième partie.
Un leadership résistible (1937-1993)

Ruth Morgenthau dessine autant que possible le cadre —social, économique, politique et culturel — qui engendra les partis politiques africains et leurs leaders à partir de 1946. La lecture de son livre montre que quatre forces se conjuguèrent pour produire Félix Houphouët-Boigny :

  • L’hégémonie française, coloniale et post-coloniale
  • La politique des partis et les contradictions des leaders
  • Les populations africaines
  • Le contexte mondial

Le livre Political Parties in French-Speaking West Africa est la  version améliorée de la thèse de doctorat (Ph.D.) de Ruth Morgenthau. De format compact l’ouvrage compte 439 pages. Mais une fabrication moins dense pourrait aisément attendre mille pages. Le corps du texte est enrichi de centaines de notes en bas de page, que j’ai regroupées en fin de chapitre. Publié en 1964, le travail fut généralement fut bien reçu à la fois pour contenu spécialisé en politologie, et pour sa dimension parfois inter-disciplinaire (histoire, anthropologie, ethnologie, économie). L’auteure effectua trois voyages de recherche sur le terrain, en 1951, 1960 et 1961. Sa préface contient une liste impressionnante d’informateurs : Ouezzin Coulibaly, Mamby Sidibé, Hampâté Bâ, Madany Mountaga Tall, Baidy Guèye, Sékou Touré, Seydou Diallo ,  N’Famara Keita, Telli Diallo, Karim Fofana, Idrissa Diarra Mahamane Alassane Haidara, Mamadou Aw, Seydou Badian Kouyaté, Abdoulaye Sangaré, Bernard Dadié, Urbain Nicoue, Issoufou Seydou Djermakoye, Senou Adande, Emile Derlin Zinsou, Doudou Guèye, Lamine Guèye, Mamadou Dia, Doudou Thiam, Assane et Ursula Seck, Abdoulaye Guèye, Abdoulaye Ly, etc.
Le livre examine la situation de quatre pays : Sénégal, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Guinée. Il s’ouvre par une solide introduction et trois chapitres généraux :

Un passage de l’introduction s’interroge avec pertinence : Comment doit-on comprendre l’usage de la référence Fama (roi en langue Maninka) pour désigner Sékou Touré en Guinée ? Ecouter, par exemple, le Bembeya Jazz national dans Regard sur le passé.

Après les quatre dossiers d’enquête, le livre propose une analyse d’ensemble et formule des opinions — parfois prémonitoires — dans les chapitres suivants :

Lacunes, erreurs, points faibles du livre

  • On relève des fautes de transcription des noms français. La confusion découle surtout des nuances du genre grammatical (masculin/féminin) du nom français.
  • L’auteur fait de Sékou Touré un descendant paternel de Samori Touré. En réalité, la parenté dérive de la mère de Sékou, une Camara. Bien qu’ayant le patronyme Touré, Alpha (le père de Sékou) n’était pas lié  à Samori.
  • L’eurocentrisme occidental apparaît çà et là à travers l’ouvrage ; ainsi al-Hajj Umar Tall et Samori sont traités de simples chefs guerriers. Aucun mot sur la production littéraire, l’impact théologique et le rayonnement spirituel du premier, ou  l’énergie organisationnelle et les aspirations unitaires du second.
  • La narration s’arrête à l’année 1961 alors que le livre fut publié en 1964. Une mise à jour avant la mise sous presse eût considérablement amélioré le contenu.
  • L’étiquette French-speaking est une généralisation excessive. Elle ne s’applique qu’à la minorité parlant la langue du colonisateur, qui reste,  pour l’écrasante majorité des Africains, un idiome étranger. Qui maintient des barrières linguistiques artificielles entre dirigeants europhones et administrés non-europhones.
  • Le livre est superficiel sur le rôle et la place de la religion en Côte d’Ivoire. Dommage, car le Christianisme était très actif. L’Eglise catholique, les syncrétismes religieux et les mouvements messianiques, par exemple, étaient impliqués dans le climat social de l’époque. Lire le Harrisme, Afrique: le harrisme et le déhima en Côte d’Ivoire coloniale, etc.
  • Ruth Morgenthau mentionne le Hamallisme ((1920-1950) en passant. Mais elle ne nomme pas le fondateur de ce courant Tijaniyya. Il s’agit bien sûr de Cheikh Hamahoullah ou Hamallah. Les travaux d’Alioune Traoré dégagent le portrait de ce sufi et saint anti-colonial. Tierno Bokar Salif Tall se plaça sous son allégeance spirituelle. Et mon grand-père, Tierno Aliou Buuɓa-Ndiyan, appuya l’enseignement et la voie du Cheikh. Que grâce  soit  rendue à tous les trois. Sous la ténébreuse Troisième République, son Empire Colonial et son régime de l’Indigénat, ces trois figures furent d’éminents porte-étendards de la tradition africaine et de l’orthodoxie sunni malékite.
  • Le livre rapporte un témoignage du sénateur Ouezzin Coulibaly au sujet de l’assassinat du sénateur Biaka Boda en janvier 1950. Mais la version donnée est, à mon avis, superficielle et inadmissible. Dans son roman satirique En attendant le vote des bêtes sauvages Ahmadou Kourouma campe mieux la vague de répression du RDA par les autorités coloniales entre 1949 et 1950. Elle liquida Biaka et faillit emporter Houphouët.

Les racines d’Houphouët-Boigny

Félix Houphouët-Boigny n’inventa pas la politique des partis en Afrique Française. Avant l’arrivée à maturité de la génération d’Houphouët, entre 1905 et 1918, diverses associations et personnalités (africaines et afro-américaines) avaient allumé le flambeau de la lutte. Du côté français, Maurice Delafosse — un maître à penser d’Houphouët — présageait dès 1915 l’éveil et le combat des colonisés pour leur émancipation.  Cela dit, Houphouët reste un doyen et une figure de proue de la politique et de la gouvernance en dans l’Afrique moderne.

Les quatre communes de plein exercie du Sénégal (Saint-Louis, Gorée, Dakar, Rufisque) jouèrent également un rôle précurseur. Et Houphouët fit l’expérience de cette organisation et discriminatoire, et fut fortement lié au Sénégal. C’est, en effet, le pays de son alma mater (Ecole normale William Ponty) et de son beau-père, Racine Sow. Malheureusement, Houphouët se départit de ces liens et adopta une attitude paradoxale axée sur deux points : (a) son rejet de ce qu’il percevait comme “l’élitisme” saintlouisien et dakarois, (b) son opposition irréductible aux thèses fédéralistes des dirigeants sénégalais. La concurrence trouva son expression la plus aigüe en 1957-58 dans le débat entre fédéralistes (Lamine Guèye, Senghor, Sékou Touré, etc.) et territorialistes (Houphouët). La question posée était de savoir s’il fallait accéder à l’indépendance en tant que bloc ouest-africain fédéré ou bien en tant que territoires distincts. Voulant  éviter l’éclatement, Senghor créa le néologisme balkanisation et mit ses pairs en garde contre les conséquences d’une marche en ordre dispersé vers la souveraineté…
Lire également (a) The Emergence of Black politics in Senegal. The Struggle for Power in the Four Communes, 1900-1920
(b) Assimilés ou patriotes africains ? Naissance du nationalisme culturel en Afrique française (1853-1931) (c) Sékou Touré : Le Héros et le Tyran, chapitre 4, “Le Triomphe (1958-1959)”

De gauche à droite, Léopold Sédar Senghor (Sénégal), Félix Houphouët-Boigny (Côte d'Ivoire), et l'abbé-président Fulbert Youlou (Congo-Brazzaville), avatar comique et accident tragique de la FrancAfrique. Le trio affiche une allure détendue. Pourtant, derrière le sourire persistaient des divergences profondes, une rivalité tenace, et, au bout du compte, l'affabilissement mutuel. Photo: Table-ronde d'Abidjan. 24 octobre 1960
De gauche à droite, Léopold Sédar Senghor (Sénégal), Félix Houphouët-Boigny (Côte d’Ivoire), et l’abbé-président Fulbert Youlou (Congo-Brazzaville), accident historique et avatar aberrant de la Françafrique. Le trio affiche une allure détendue. Pourtant, derrière le sourire persistaient des divergences profondes, une rivalité tenace, et, au bout du compte, l’affabilissement mutuel. Photo: Table-ronde d’Abidjan. 24 octobre 1960

Axe triangulaire

Morgenthau place les débuts d’Houphouët dans un axe triangulaire incluant :

  • La politique coloniale d’intéressement de planteurs Français
  • L’incorporation de la main-d’oeuvre forcée extra-territoriale
  • L’adoption  de la nouvelle économie de plantation par les Ivoriens et les immigrés

Politique d’intéressement

Ruth écrit (je traduis) : « A partir de 1930 les autorités coloniales de Côte d’Ivoire décidèrent d’intéresser des Français à venir s’installer comme planteurs des cultures d’exportation (cacao, café). Les premières actions se développèrent dans la ceinture forestière, à peu près au sud du 8° parallèle. Les plantations des Européens se situaient :

  1. A l’ouest de la rivère Bandama, près de Gagnoa, Daloa, et Man
  2. Le long de la côte méridionale, près de Grand Bassam, Abidjan, Grand Lahou, et Sassandra
  3. Le long de l’axe ferroviaire Agboville-Dimbokro-Bouaké, en forêt
  4. A Katiola et Korhogo dans la savanne septentrionnale.

une main-d’oeuvre forcée importée

Imposant le travail forcé, le régime de l’Indigénat importa une main-d’oeuvre abondante et bon marché. Ces recrutements obligatoires permirent la mise en valeur les plantations des Européens. Ainsi, le décret du 25 octobre 1925 organisa le mouvement des contingents des régions pauvres du nord vers le sud fertile. Le texte règlementa aussi la répartition du personnel importé  entre l’administration et les planteurs Européens. Devant la faible densité démographique  (9 habitants au km2) du sud, les colonisateurs contraignirent des travailleurs du nord de la Côte d’Ivoire, de la Guinée, et, surtout, de la Haute-Volta (Burkina Faso). Les statistiques officielles établissent qu’entre 1920 et 1930, plus de 190.000 Voltaïques furent incorporés dans les brigades de travail en Côte d’Ivoire.

Adoption  de la nouvelle économie de plantation par les Ivoriens

L’auteur souligne l’intérêt et la participation effective des Africains à l’économie de plantation. « Peu après l’installation des coloniaux, les Africains créèrent eux aussi des plantations. Plus petits que les domaines des Européens, leurs lots étaient éparpillés à travers la forêt. Dans l’entre-deux guerres (1918-1939), leurs plantations s’étendirent à l’est de la Bandama parmi les peuples Baulé et Agni. (Baule and Agni sont apparentés ; eux et les Ashanti du Ghana appartiennent à l’aire ethnique Akan).
La particularité de la colonie de Côte d’Ivoire découle du fait que des citadins et des “évolués” (diplômés de l’école française) s’intéressèrent et s’investirent dans l’économie de plantation. Ce faisant, ils se dégageaient de la dépendance salariale de la bureaucratie coloniale. Contrairement à la plupart des autres territoires — où les fonctionnaires dépendaient de l’administration — les colonisés pouvaient s’installer et vivre à leur compte. Mas la fièvre de plantation ne s’arrêta pas aux fonctionnaires. Elle gagna aussi les villageois illétrés, y compris les femmes. Chacun trouva dans la plantation un moyen d’améliorer son status économique et social. Les chefs traditionnels bénéficièrent de l’émergence de cette couche de planteurs de plus en plus prospères. Et la rivalité entre élites traditionelles et modernes s’atténua. L’économie de plantation et l’accès à l’argent rapprocha les chefs traditionnels — précoloniaux —et les chefs modernes. En conséquence, les chefs traditionnel acceptèrent un “évolué” et chef de statut secondaire, en l’occurrence,  Felix Houphouët-Boigny, comme leur porte-parole.
Toutefois, ces développements engendrèrent des clivages et des frictions. Ce fut notamment avec la distinction entre autochtones et “étrangers” ou “dioula”, c’est-à-dire les travailleurs immigrés — forcés et volontaires —  du Nord de la Côte d’Ivoire et de territoires voisins. Les graines de l’“ivoirité” venaient d’être semées. Avec elles, la dualité fondamentale, déconcertante et débilitante de la Côte d’Ivoire : terre d’inclusion et  d’exclusion, hospitalière et xénophobe. Cette contradiction débouchera en 2002 sur la crise politico-militaire, la guerre civile et la partition du pays entre le Nord et le Sud.

Carte ethnique de la Côte d'Ivoire. Source : Ruth S. Morgenthau. Political Parties in French-Speaking West Africa. 1964
Carte ethnique de la Côte d’Ivoire. Source : Ruth S. Morgenthau. Political Parties in French-Speaking West Africa. 1964
Carte politique de la Côte d'Ivoire. Source : Ruth S. Morgenthau. Political Parties in French-Speaking West Africa. 1964
Source : Ruth S. Morgenthau. Political Parties in French-Speaking West Africa. 1964

Dans une prochaine livraion j’examine la carrière politique d’Houphouët-Boigny en quatre phases et périodes :

  • La phase organisationnelle et fondatrice
  • Dans l’opposition (RDA) et face à la répression coloniale
  • Récupération, collaboration et cooptation
  • “L’indépendance” et la présidence à vie

(A suivre)

Tierno S. Bah

Gambia, Och-Ziff, Guinea, Niger, Chad, RDC

Former president Yahya Jammeh departs Banjul, Jan. 21
Former president Yahya Jammeh departs Banjul, Jan. 21

President Alpha Condé stepped  in the Gambian post-electoral crisis at the last minute. He and Mauritanian president “convinced” former president Yahya Jammeh to yield to President Adama Barrow  and head into exile.
In Conakry, people quickly credited President Condé, deeming it a foreign policy victory. Unfortunately, they have little to say in support of their allegation.  Actually, Yahya was caught between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, he had long lost credibility and now the vote of the majority of citizens. On the other, and if it came to that, ECOWAS military forces were determined to remove Mr. Jammeh from the presidential palace.

It appears now that all Jammeh wanted was to keep his stolen money and ill-gotten luxury goods. He has amassed immense personal wealth at the expense of the Gambian people.

Tactically though, ECOWAS agreed to last minute negotiations that involved General Idriss Déby Itno, president of Chad since 1990, who offered a freight plane to transport Yahya cherished possessions to Malabo.
Once that deal was sealed, Jammeh, escorted by Alpha Condé, flew out of Banjul into exile in Equatorial Guinea.

Mindful of Jammeh’s post-electoral illegitimacy and greedy bargaining, African presidents simply acknowledged his departure. They did not celebrate the event, nor did they use it as a domestic politics scoring game. Only Alpha Condé and his cronies  resorted to such gimmicks and nonsense.

A case in point, President has appointed Tibou Kamara —Yahya Jammeh brother-in-law— as one of his many counselors, an empty title due to the lack of functions. Yesterday, political enemies, the two men are now allies. The pair has come to realize that the same personal and sterile ambition drives them. Birds of the same feathers flock together.

Anyhow, there are lessons to be learned from African dictators’ fall from grace. In 2014, it was the popular insurrection against Blaise Compaoré in Burkina Faso. And now, after a stunning electoral defeat, Yahya Jammeh reneged and tried to hang on to power. ECOWAS, the AU and the UN would have none of it.

Mr. Condé has been dogged lately by revelations about his own suspicious wheeling and dealing in the Simandou  corruption scandal.

A federal court in Brooklyn has charged Michael Cohen and Vanja Baros, executives of Hedge Fund giant Och-Ziff, for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. In 2010 Och-Ziff wired millions of dollars to the Swiss bank account of a French lobbyist, and former adviser to President Condé.
That payment has been linked to other Och-Ziff corruption allegations in Niger, Chad  and the DRC. Will Alpha Condé face a political fallout and judicial implications for his financial schemes?

Time will tell.

Meanwhile, just like Blaise and Yahya before hime, Alpha should remember this: “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” (Abraham Lincoln)

Tierno S. Bah


Hedge Fund Execs Charged in Multi-Million Dollar Bribery Scheme

U.S. securities regulators on Thursday accused two former executives at hedge fund Och-Ziff Capital Management of masterminding a far-reaching scheme to pay tens of millions of dollars in bribes to African officials.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Brooklyn, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission accused Michael Cohen, who headed Och-Ziff’s European office, and Vanja Baros, a former analyst, of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

The lawsuit came after Och-Ziff agreed in September to pay $412 million to resolve U.S. investigations relating to the hedge fund’s role in bribing officials in several African countries.

That settlement led to a subsidiary of Och-Ziff pleading guilty to participating in a scheme to bribe officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in what prosecutors said marked the first U.S. foreign bribery case against a hedge fund.

In its lawsuit, the SEC said Cohen, 45, and Baros, 44, from 2007 to 2012 caused bribes to be paid to officials in Libya, Chad, Niger, Guinea, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo through agents, intermediaries, and business partners.

Those bribes were paid to secure a $300 million investment from the Libyan Investment Authority sovereign wealth fund; an investment in a Libyan real estate development project; and to secure mining deals, the SEC said.

Ronald White, a lawyer Cohen, said in a statement he “has done nothing wrong and is confident that when all the evidence is presented, it will be shown that the SEC’s civil charges are baseless.”

A lawyer for Baros did not immediately respond to requests for comment. An Och-Ziff spokesman declined to comment.

In settling in September, Och-Ziff entered a deferred prosecution agreement, in which charges related to conduct in several countries would be dropped after three years if it followed the deal’s terms.

Och-Ziff CEO Daniel Och meanwhile agreed with the SEC to pay $2.17 million, and the commission also settled with the company’s chief financial officer.

To date, only one individual has been criminally charged in connection with the probe, Samuel Mebiame, a son of the late former Gabon Prime Minister Leon Mebiame who prosecutors say acted as a “fixer” for a joint-venture involving Och-Ziff.

In December, Mebiame pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, admitting he schemed to provide “improper benefits” to officials in African countries such as Guinea in exchange for obtaining business opportunities.

Reuters

France. Guerre et paix, colonialisme et racisme

Gouverneur général Felix Eboué et général de Gaulle s'entretiennent Brazzaville en 1943 pendant que les troupes coloniales présentent les honneurs.
Gouverneur général Felix Eboué et général de Gaulle s’entretiennent Brazzaville en 1943 pendant que les troupes coloniales présentent les honneurs.

Le court article (en anglais) reproduit plus bas révèle la duplicité et le racisme de la France gaulliste. Hitler déclara la guerre à la France en 1940. Il l’envahit et en occupa la partie nord de l’Hexagone. Il céda le sud du pays au maréchal Philippe Pétain, fascisant et collaborateur, qui installa son régime à Vichy. A la tête des Forces françaises libres (FFL), général Charles de Gaulle engagea la lutte contre Pétain, dont il fut un protégé. Il trouva les bases arrière et les troupes de combat en Afrique centrale. Il lui  fut impossible de mettre le pied à Dakar où Pierre Boisson, gouverneur général, s’était rallié à Vichy. Par contre, de Gaulle trouva l’appui tant cherché auprès de Félix Eboué — de la Guyane française, compatriote de René Maran et beau-père de Léopold Sédar Senghor. Eboué fut successivement gouverneur d’Oubangui-Chari (Centrafrique) et gouverneur général d’Afrique Equatoriale, avec siège à Brazzaville. Il coordonna donc l’effort de guerre anti-nazi en Afrique française. Et il fut l’hôte en 1944 de la réunion de Brazzaville, la première tentative de réforme du système colonial. La rencontre se tint deux ans avant le Congrès fondateur du Rassemblement démocratique africain (RDA) en octobre 1946 à Bamako, sous l’égide de Félix Houphouët-Boigny. Ce mouvement joua un rôle clé dans la lutte contre le colonialisme, après l’effondrement de l’Empire colonial de la 3è république française (1870-1940), et à l’orée de la 4è république (1946-1958).

Racisme et répression

Toutefois, une fois le nazisme vaincu et la paix revenue, général de Gaulle et les Alliés (Américains, Anglais) décideront d’exclure les troupes noires du défilé triomphal sur les Champs Elysées. L’évènement marqua la libération de Paris en 1945. Cette mesure fut un comble d’ingratitude et de racisme. Mais elle présageait surtout la série de répressions féroces perpétrées par la France dans l’immédiat après-guerre 1949-1945. Citons notamment :

Honneur à Félix Eboué

A noter toutefois que Charles de Gaulle exprima sa reconnaissance posthume à Félix Eboué, qui mourut subitement en 1944. Il fit inhumer Eboué au Panthéon, où il repose aux côtés de grandes figures françaises : Voltaire, Victor Hugo, Emile Zola, André Malraux, etc.

Tierno S. Bah

The whitewashing of French forces in the liberation of Paris

Senegalese troops prisoners of war in Europe. They fought for the liberation of France from Hitler.
Senegalese troops prisoners of war in Europe. They fought for the liberation of France from Hitler.

A short account of how American and British commanders ensured that the liberation of Paris was orchestrated by a “whites only” force.

Operations

The BBC uncovered documents revealing that black colonial soldiers, who made up the majority of General De Gaulle’s Free French army were removed from the unit that led the Allied recapture of the city.

In the planning of the liberation exercise, Charles de Gaulle wanted to ensure his Free French force led the operation. He was anxious to assert his authority in post-Nazi France, to avoid the Resistance — much of which was made up by communists and working class radicals — taking power.

Allied High Command agreed, but on the condition that the division which did so should not contain any black soldiers.

Eisenhower’s Chief of Staff, Major General Walter Bedell Smith, wrote in a confidential memo:

It is more desirable that the division mentioned above consist of white personnel.
This would indicate the Second Armoured Division, which with only one fourth native personnel, is the only French division operationally available that could be made one hundred percent white.

British General, Frederick Morgan wrote:

It is unfortunate that the only French formation that is 100% white is an armoured division in Morocco.
Every other French division is only about 40% white. I have told Colonel de Chevene that his chances of getting what he wants will be vastly improved if he can produce a white infantry division.

Due to the fact that African conscripts made up 65% of the Free French army, finding an all-white division proved impossible

Mike Thompson for the BBC reported that as a result:

Allied Command insisted that all black soldiers be taken out and replaced by white ones from other units.
When it became clear that there were not enough white soldiers to fill the gaps, soldiers from parts of North Africa and the Middle East were used instead.

Indeed, the shortage of white French soldiers was one of the reasons for using the 9th Company, of Spanish anarchist and Republican exiles in the mission.

Celebrations

Black fighters were not just barred from the military operation, some were also rejected from the liberation celebrations.

French resistance fighter Georges Dukson, near General De Gaulle during the official celebrations. Paris, 1945
French resistance fighter Georges Dukson, near General De Gaulle during the official celebrations. Paris, 1945

Dukson had enrolled in the French army in 1940, and lived underground during the Nazi occupation. He was part of the resistance, and played an important role during the Paris insurrection in 1944, where he was put in charge of the unit for his bravery. He was then promoted to Sublieutenant and was wounded in action when he was shot in the arm.

Shortly after the above photograph was taken, he was marched away from the event at gunpoint.

Aftermath

17,000 of France’s black soldiers had previously died resisting the Nazi invasion.

But after being excluded from the liberation, many of them just had to return their uniforms and were sent home. Even the method of repatriation was brutal.

In late November, 1944, around 1300 former Senegalese servicemen who had been prisoners of war in Europe and had been returned home protested against poor treatment and lack of pay. Dozens of them were massacred by French troops, and some of the survivors were subsequently jailed for 10 years.

To add insult to injury, their pensions were frozen in 1959.

One former French colonial soldier, Issa Cisse from Senegal, told the BBC:

We, the Senegalese, were commanded by the white French chiefs.
We were colonised by the French. We were forced to go to war. Forced to follow the orders that said, do this, do that, and we did. France has not been grateful. Not at all.

This story of the racism, colonialism and violence of the Allies, is just one of many similar tales — like the Bengal famine, the Hitler Stalin pact, the British massacre of anti-fascist Greeks — which give weight to the perspective that World War II was not a fight against racism and for democracy, but more a battle between rival empires.

This idea is explored much further in the excellent book, Unpatriotic History of the Second World War, by James Heartfield .

Steven Johns
Libcom

Sources
1. Mike Thompson. “Paris liberation made ‘whites only’” 
2. Matthew Cobb. The lost lion of Paris: the extraordinary story of George Dukson
3. Hervé Mbouguen. “1er Décembre 1944: Le massacre du Camp de Thiaroye”.

France – Guinée : Bolloré et Condé

Vincent Bolloré mène la visite guidée du président Alpha Condé à la Blue Zone de Kaloum (Conakry-centre) en août 2014. Le président du Bénin, Patrice Talon, a raillé ces réalisations de saupoudrage et de publicité du groupe Bolloré en ces termes : « Ce n'est pas avec une aire de jeux et quelques panneaux solaires qu'il va me convaincre »
Vincent Bolloré mène la visite guidée du président Alpha Condé à la Blue Zone de Kaloum (Conakry-centre) en août 2014. Le président du Bénin, Patrice Talon, a raillé ces réalisations de saupoudrage et de publicité du groupe Bolloré en ces termes : « Ce n’est pas avec une aire de jeux et quelques panneaux solaires qu’il va me convaincre »

Le journal Le Monde a publié hier 16 septembre un rapport d’enquête intitulé “Bolloré : la saga du port maudit de Conakry.” Le texte traite essentiellement des rapports personnels entre le président Alpha Condé et le riche homme d’affaires français, Vincent Bolloré. L’article est long et pourtant il me semble qu’il passe à côté du sujet. Ses auteurs l’ont voulu détaillé, cependant, lecture faite on reste sur sa faim, quant au contenu d’information et à la précision du compte-rendu.
Les choses s’amorcent mal dès le titre. Trois  sur cinq mots-clefs (saga, port, maudit) du nom du document prêtent à contestation.

Un titre inadéquat

Voici les raisons pour lesquelles le titre du rapport est inadéquat.

  1. Le dictionnaire Larousse définit saga ainsi : “Épopée familiale quasi légendaire se déroulant sur plusieurs générations.” Le choix de saga pour parler de tractations et de machinations politico-financières franco-guinéenes répond à la définition de saga.
  2. Quant au mot port, l’enquête aurait dû préciser qu’elle se concentre sur le port de conteneurs, qu’Alpha Condé concéda brutalement au groupe Bolloré en mars 2011. Mais le Port Autonome de Conakry comprend deux entités, que l’article présente comme suit :
    « D’abord, le terminal à conteneurs, géré par le groupe Bolloré. Un espace propre, aseptisé et informatisé.…
    (Ensuite) le reste du port, où se croisent dockers et vendeurs à la sauvette. Les voitures et les camions qui circulent sans précautions dans ce capharnaüm portuaire ne s’aventurent pas dans l’enclave Bolloré.
    Ces deux mondes cohabitent mais ne se mélangent pas. » Cette dernière formule caractérise les rapports entre l’Europe et l’Afrique depuis quatre siècles. Elle résume l’apartheid portuaire et la ségrégation économique instaurés par le régime guinéen. Honte à ceux/celles qui causent ces injustices ! Honnis soient ceux/celles qui imposent de telles inégalités ! De façon générale, une telle stratégie perpétue et renforce l’hégémonie de l’Occident sur l’Afrique. Au lieu de financer et de partager la technologie et le savoir-faire, l’Europe y crée des enclaves isolées et des poches artificielles de croissance. Pour toute leur modernité, ces excroissances sont détachées et disjointes de l’environnement général des pays hôtes. Elles fonctionnent comme des infrastructures sangsues et parasitaires, qui vident le continent de ses ressources naturelles et l’inondent de marchandises coûteuses, médiocres, périmées, etc. En définitive, l’Afrique  est laissée pour compte, végétant dans le sous-développement et la décadence.
  3. Enfin, pourquoi qualifier le lieu de “maudit” ? Quelle est la malédiction qui le frappe ? S’agit-il des circonstances de la concession du port de conteneurs à Bolloré ? Il ne faut pas y voir une damnation quelconque. C’est simplement un scandale. Même si, il est vrai, “des questions qui fâchent, celles de soupçons de corruption et de favoritisme” continuent de l’entourer. Le mot “maudit” est subjectif. De plus, il est matériellement faux dans la mesure où, bon an, mal an, la firme Bolloré  tire profit de l’exploitation de ses installations portuaires Sinon, elle se serait déjà retirée de la Guinée. Si pour Le Monde l’affaire du port de conteneurs est maudite, il n’en est pas de même pour Bolloré, à qui elle rapporte gros. Raison pour laquelle il força le retrait de la concession à Getma (Necotrans) et se la fit attribuer. Ce qui semble confirmer que Vincent Bolloré ne s’embarasse pas de scrupules. Il le dit lui-même : « Notre méthode, c’est plutôt du commando que de l’armée régulière ! » M. Bolloré est donc motivé par la recherche du gain, la minimisation des pertes et l’accroissement des profits. Et non pas par la crainte du péché. Du reste, l’article cite Jacques Dupuydauby, un ex-associé de Vincent Bolloré, qui pense que le conglomérat de son ancien partenaire est un “système mafieux” dirigé par un “gangster corrupteur”.

Guinée, SARL

Les journalistes se sont contentés d’aborder les personnalités au premier rang du scandale, les officiers de la police judiciaire française, et un ancien collaborateur de Bolloré… Le rapport ne cite aucune source de second rang, surtout du côté guinéen : ni le Premier ministre, ni aucun membre du gouvernement.  Répondant aux envoyés du Monde à Paris, le président Alpha Condé parle de façon cavalière et légère. Il donne l’impression de traiter la Guinée comme une propriété privée, qu’il gère comme une société à responsabilité limitée. Et qui seraient ses partenaires ? Peut-être ses “amis” : MM. Vincent Bolloré, Bernard Kouchner, Walter Hennig, Tony Blair, George Soros, etc. !
Lire (a) Soros Enmeshed in Bribery Scandal in Guinea
(b) Mining and corruption. Crying foul in Guinea
(c) Guinea Mining. Exploiting a State on the Brink of Failure (d) L’insondable Walter Hennig
Inapproprié pour sa fonction, son langage reflète l’autocratie totale et la désinvolture extrême. M. Condé ne se réfère jamais à son gouvernement, à son Premier ministre, ou au ministre des transports. Il ignore, bien sûr, l’existence de l’Assemblée nationale (Législatif) et la Cour suprême (Judiciaire), pourtant censées être paritaires, avec l’Exécutif, dans l’exercice du pouvoir d’Etat. Alpha Condé ne s’exprime qu’à la première personne du singulier : Je, Moi, Moi-même. Les pronoms pluriels, la recherche du consensus gouvernemental, la collégialité administrative lui sont inconnus.
Exemples :

  1.   « Vincent Bolloré, je le connais depuis quarante ans … Là, il est en Indonésie sinon je l’aurais appelé et on aurait dîné tous ensemble chez Laurent (restaurant gastronomique étoilé parisien) ».
    Quelle vantardise ! Qelle vanité ! Président Condé oublie qu’il coiffe l’Etat d’un des pays les plus pauvres de la planète ! Il est dès lors absurde de se flatter d’avoir un accès familier à un milliardaire de France. Il feint d’oublier que ce pays  conquit, domina, exploita et ruina la partie du continent africain qui lui échut au partage de l’Afrique à la conférence de Berlin en 1884-1885.  Cette même France règne de façon hégémonique sur son pré carré : la France-Afrique, dont  la Guinée fait partie. Depuis Sékou Touré ! Il précipita le divorce avec le général Charles de Gaulle en 1958. Il chercha et obtint la réconciliation avec Valéry Giscard d’Estaing et la France en 1975. Dans les deux cas ce fut au détriment de la Guinée et du sien propre.
    Lire (a) Sékou Touré. Le discours du 25 août 1958 (b) Phineas Malinga. Ahmed Sékou Touré: An African Tragedy (c) André Lewin. Ahmed Sékou Touré (1922-1984), Président de la Guinée de 1958 à 1984
    Situé aux Champs Elysées de Paris,  le restaurant Laurent offre ses repas à raison de  €130  et €230 par personne. Au taux de change courant, cela donne entre un million trois cent mille et deux millions trois cent mille Francs guinéens. Cela correspond à peu près au revenu mensuel de millions de Guinéens. Et à la moitié environ du revenu annuel par tête d’habitant (PIB), selon les statistiques 2015 de la Banque Mondiale et du PNUD. En un mot, les propos d’Alpha Condé confirment les prétentions, la sottise, et la stupidité de la  petite-bourgeoisie africaine, vigoureusement dénoncée par Frantz Fanon dans Les Damnés de la terre.
  2. « Depuis que je suis élu, le fils [de Patrick] Balkany m’a demandé un permis minier, d’autres Français m’ont demandé des faveurs, mais pas Bolloré dont le groupe travaille et développe le port de Conakry. »
    L’attribution de contrats miniers est au coeur de la corruption qui gangrère la gestion des affaires publiques du pays. Au lieu de prendre personnellement en charge les dossiers d’extraction minière, M. Condé devait céder cette responsabilité au département ministériel de tutelle travailler. A charge pour ce cabinet de travailler en concert avec la commission idoine de l’Assemblée nationale afin d’appliquer les normes requises de transparence et d’intégrité.
  3. … le groupe Bolloré est resté maître du port de Conakry. Alpha Condé se lève, tape dans le dos avec ses mains ornées de bagues et lâche : « Et puis écrivez ce que vous voulez, je n’en ai rien à faire ».
    Là, Alpha Condé prouve qu’il ne parvient pas à se glisser dans la peau d’un chef d’Etat et d’en endosser les responsabilités et la hauteur de vues. Il se prend toujours pour le micro-entrepreneur des années 1980, qui avait monté une modeste entreprise de distribution de produits alimentaires. Il ne se rend pas compte que ses actes et propos engagent tout un pays. Au lieu de se soucier de sa réputation et de la promotion de l’image de la Guinée, il s’exprime dans un langage terre- à-terre qui frise la vulgarité.
Bernard Kouchner, ancien ministre français des Affaires étrangères et président Alpha Condé à l'inauguration du Centre Medico-communal de Conakry, 2014. — BlogGuinée
Bernard Kouchner, ancien ministre français des Affaires étrangères et président Alpha Condé à l’inauguration du Centre Medico-communal de Conakry, 2014. — BlogGuinée
Bernard Kouchner accueille la première dame Djènè Saran Kaba à l'inaguration de son Centre médico-communal, Conakry 2014. — BlogGuinée
Bernard Kouchner accueille la première dame Djènè Saran Kaba à l’inaguration de son Centre médico-communal, Conakry 2014. — BlogGuinée

Autocratie, dictature, affairisme : legs de Sékou Touré

Dans “Conakry, plaque tournante de l’Escroquerie internationale” j’ai évoqué la valse … de la corruption… et les rapports dialectiques liant corrupteur et corrompu.

Celle-ci ne se limite pas à l’échange — illicite, illégale et illégitime — d’argent par des bailleurs à des quémandeurs dans le bradage des ressources naturelles de la Guinée.

La corruption s’attaque de façon [incidieuse et] sournoise, et sape de manière souterraine les normes  d’intégrité et de moralité et les institutions gardiennes du fonctionnement et du salut de la république. C’est ainsi qu’en Guinée, depuis la proclamation de la république, la corruption étouffe et empêche la  gestation et la construction de la justice et de la démocratie. Dès 1961, Sékou Touré (1958-1984) construisit le Camp Boiro. Il y réprima, dans le sang, les aspirations des citoyens au pluralisme, à l’alternance, à la collégialité, au consensus, et a la transparence dans la gestion du bien commun. Sékou Touré savait bien que la justice et la démocratie sont des nécessités indispensables, des condition sine qua non du développement collectif et de l’épanouissement individuel. Délibérément et cyniquement, hélas, il leur substitua la dictature, c’est-à-dire, entre autres, le népotisme, la médiocrité, la corruption et l’impunité.

Lire (a) Andrée Touré : impénitente et non-repentante (b) Ismael Touré, André Lewin et Paul Berthaud

Lansana Conté (1984-2008), résista d’abord à la pression sociale pour l’instauration du pluralisme politique. Mais il finit par céder et concocta malheureusement un système délavé et dénaturé.

Consulter (a) Lansana Conté : l’enracinement de l’impunité et l’édification d’un Etat criminel  (b) Cona’cris. La Révolution Orpheline  (c) Lansana Conté par Alain Fokka

Issus de l’écurie Conté capitaine Moussa Dadis Cama (2008-2009) et colonel Sékouba Konaté (2010) exhibèrent la même tendance à l’affairisme et à la cupidité.

Pour sa part, durant la campagne présidentielle de 2010, Alpha Condé se présenta comme un continuateur de Sékou Touré. L’annonce parut paradoxale de la part d’un opposant condamné à mort par contumace  en janvier 1971 par le Tribunal révolutionnaire. En réalité, il disait vrai. Et depuis lors  sa confession s’est confirmée à travers la répression cyclique, la gabégie, l’incompétence, la corruption, l’impunité, la promotion filiale et le rêve dynastique du “Professeur”-président Condé ?

Tierno S. Bah

The Butcher’s Trail. When Justice Wins!

I reprint here the Introduction (21 pages) and, next, Chapter 13 (“The Legacy”, 29 pages) of Julian Borges’ book entitled The Butcher’s Trail : how the search for Balkan war criminals became the world’s most successful manhunt. New York : Other Press, 2016. xxx, 400 pages : illustrations, maps.
That said, I encourage BlogGuinée’s visitors to get and read this work. It is a well-written account of a key episode in the permanent and worldwide struggle against dictatorship, human rights violations, genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Readers beware! This book is neither casual nor trivial. It stands out asrather substantial and substantive. And it reads as a well-researched, organized and written contribution. It is, in sum, the fruitful labor of an inquisitive mind and an investigative journalist who (a) has great mastery of his native tongue, and (b) built up a detailed knowledge of his topic. Julian Borge’s admirable talent serves here a noble cause: the defense of truth through the quest for justice.
The author of The Butcher’s Trail remains focused and stays on topic. True, he makes cursory connections to related facts and events. However, he sticks to the former Yugoslavia, from 1995 to today. I thus selected the above mentioned section because they include references to Africa. These are just tidbits. However, the entries convey potent and relevant connotations; one points to Nelson Mandela, the other to the International Criminal Court.

Nelson Mandela
Contrary to Robert Mugabe, —his junior comrade— the late Madiba decided to leave active politics after just one term as the first elected president of post-Apartheid South Africa. Yet, in retirement he cast a shining light on his beloved country, his continent and on the entire planet. He still does so posthumously. For death has not dimmed his star. To the contrary, his name is enshrined in the pantheon of the greatest men and women in History. And his symbol as patriot and statesman lives on.

The ICC
Julian Borger joins the battle by shedding light on the history of this institution. He writes: “Slobodan Milošević, the Yugoslav president who became the first head of state to stand before an international tribunal for crimes perpetrated in a time of war.
This sentence debunks the claim that Western powers single out African dictators for investigation, indictment, prosecution and trial. It shatters the myth that the ICC targets only African presidents, or that the international community is engaged in a political and judicial witch hunt against African politicians. So, they seek to elude scrutiny and evade justice by plotting an Africa withdrawal from the ICC. In vain!

Read Rev. Desmond Tutu’s In Africa, Seeking a License to Kill.

The fact is that autocrats, presidents-for-life, tyrants, warlords, and potentates have plagued the continent since the independence series of the 1960s. The list of countries and culprits is tedious:  Rwanda (Juvénal Habiyarimana), Zaire/RDC (Mobutu), Kenya (Uhuru Kenyatta), Uganda (Idi Amin), Zimbabwe (Robert Mugabe), Somalia (Syad Bare), Sudan (Omar al-Bashir), Egypt (Hosni Mubarak), Tunisia (Zine El Abidine Ben Ali), Libya (Muammar Gaddafi), Algeria (Bouteflika), Mali (Moussa Konaté), Burkina Faso (Blaise Compaoré), Chad (Hissène Habré), Togo (Gnassingbé Eyadema), Ethiopia (Mengistu Haile Mariam), Eritrea (Isaias Afwerki), Gabon (Omar Bongo), Nigeria (Sani Abacha), Denis Sassou-Nguesso (Congo), CAR (Bokassa), Cameroon (Paul Biya), Equatorial Guinea (Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo), Liberia (Charles Taylor), Sierra Leone (Fode Sankon and the RUF), Gambia (Yahya Jammeh),  Côte d’Ivoire (Laurent Gbagbo), etc.

In Guinea, since 1958, the country’s five presidents (Sékou Touré, Lansana Conté, Moussa Dadis Camara, Sékouba Konaté, Alpha Condé) sadly belong all in the same category of ruthless predators.

Reconciliation: a code word for impunity
Guinea’s current president, Alpha Condé, wants to sweep under the carpet the September 28, 2009 massacre of hundreds of civilians, followed by mass rapes. He refuses to let the judicial branch handle the trial of  the members of the military junta headed by former Captain Moussa Dadis Camara. Holding up the investigation, he plan to delay the court as long as he is president. To cover up his maneuvers he has propped up a puppet and sycophantic national commission of truth and reconciliation. Such extra-judicial efforts are cynical, misguided, wrong, vicious, and malevolent. They disregard totally the grievances and calls for justice by plaintiffs collectives that group survivors and family members of Guinea’s death camps and killing fields: Camp Boiro, Camp Keme Bourema, Mont Kakoulima, Mont Gangan, etc. M. Condé’s reconciliation slogan is simply a code word for impunity.
But The Butcher’s Trail tells us that the commitment for justice is tireless and  permanent. It must go on everywhere, in Guinea and elsewhere around the globe.
Note. I have embedded the audio file of Julian Borger’s interview by Scott Simon on National National Public Radio (Washington, DC), Weekend Edition, dated Saturday March 26, 2016. The conversation focuses on the trial of Bosnian war criminal Radovan Karodzic which ended that week in The Hague. The transcript is appended to the mp3 document.
Tierno S. Bah


The butcher's trail : how the search for Balkan war criminals became the world's most successful manhunt

Introduction

« The gripping, untold story of The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and how the perpetrators of Balkan war crimes were captured by the most successful manhunt in history. Written with a thrilling narrative pull, The Butcher’s Trail chronicles the pursuit and capture of the Balkan war criminals indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague. Borger recounts how Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić—both now on trial in The Hague—were finally tracked down, and describes the intrigue behind the arrest of Slobodan Milošević, the Yugoslav president who became the first head of state to stand before an international tribunal for crimes perpetrated in a time of war. Based on interviews with former special forces soldiers, intelligence officials, and investigators from a dozen countries–most speaking about their involvement for the first time–this book reconstructs a fourteen-year manhunt carried out almost entirely in secret. Indicting the worst war criminals that Europe had known since the Nazi era, the ICTY ultimately accounted for all 161 suspects on its wanted list, a feat never before achieved in political and military history. »

The Echo of Nuremberg

“The Security Council thought we would never become operational. We had no budget. We had nothing. Zero.”
—Antonio Cassese, first president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia

Julian Borge
Julian Borge

The trail came to a halt in a forest clearing. A man emerged from the trees at the agreed time, but the friend he had come to meet was nowhere to be seen. The man waited, feeling increasingly out of place. It was a burning hot day in late July, and he was flabby and pale from years spent in colder climes.
He regretted having come home, but he had no real choice. By the summer of 2011, the man had spent seven years as a fugitive, most recently in Russia, and was out of money. The only people on earth prepared to help him were here, in Serbia, where he could surely still count on a handful of true believers from the old days of national struggle. But where were they now?
As the appointed hour came and went, the only sounds in the forest were birdsong and the wind in the leaves. But the man was not alone. All along the path as it wound through the trees, he had been watched intently. As he emerged into the clearing, the illusion of solitude lasted just a few more moments before exploding with shouts and a blur of movement. In an instant, there were men all around him in white T-shirts and black knitted masks, pointing guns, gripping him by the wrists and shoulders.
One of the men, a police officer, began a recitation: “Goran Hadžić, we are arresting you …”
It was a name that had scarcely been heard for years. Even its owner had stopped using it, in favor of a string of aliases. But two decades earlier, Goran Hadžić had been a name to reckon with in this corner of the Balkans. He had been a president, albeit of a trumped-up little statelet with jagged edges—a bite taken out of one reborn country, Croatia, to be chewed and swallowed by another, Serbia, its covetous neighbor.
When the exhausted federal experiment that was Yugoslavia collapsed, its constituent republics were left to fight over its corpse. Serbia was the biggest and most predatory, spurred on by the most ruthless leader. Slobodan Milošević truly was a man for all seasons—a Socialist turned banker turned nationalist despot and unflinching war criminal. His preference was for a Serb-dominated Yugoslavia, but if he could not have that, he would carve out a Greater Serbia at the expense of his neighbors.
Hadžić was Milošević’s puppet, but the sort of puppet that belongs in a horror film, a bloodied ventriloquist’s dummy. He helped preside over the first large-scale slaughter of innocent civilians in Europe since the Nazi era. From August to November 1991, the early days of Yugoslavia’s dismemberment, the baroque Croatian town of Vukovar, which had sat comfortably by the Danube for centuries, was razed to the ground by Serb artillery.
Once the town had fallen, some three hundred Croat men and teenage boys, many of them wounded, were taken from a hospital to a nearby farm where they were beaten and tortured by Serb soldiers and paramilitary volunteers serving with the Yugoslav army. They were driven away at night in trucks, ten to twenty at a time, taken to a wooded ravine, and executed. Only a handful escaped. In all, 263 men and boys were killed, the youngest aged sixteen. There was also one woman among the victims. Their bodies were dumped in a mass grave and covered by a bulldozer.

In Western capitals, it seemed beyond comprehension that wholesale slaughter was being committed once more in the heart of Europe. In the early nineties, it was a continent preoccupied with harmonizing food safety standards and the many other intricate chores of building a closer union. The dark past, two generations earlier, was buried under layer upon layer of democracy, diplomacy, and bureaucracy, or so it seemed from Brussels. The return of mass murder was deeply shocking. An entire town was pulverized, and its surviving Croats and minorities driven out with the goal of creating a swath of territory that would be home only to Serbs.
The process was called “ethnic cleansing,” a turn of phrase beyond George Orwell’s darkest satire. Like all the most effective propaganda, it worked by inversion. It took an act that was inherently dirty and gore-spattered and made it sound like a salutary rite of purification. It was a “cleansing” that left a permanent stain on everyone and everything it touched.
The “purified” mini-state was named the Republic of Serbian Krajina (Republika Srpska Krajina, or RSK), and Hadžić became its despot. He was thirty-three years old, a former warehouseman for an agro-industrial company in Vukovar who had been a leading light in the local League of Communists in his youth. He was picked for the role of the RSK’s warlord because he had made the same ideological swerve to nationalism as Milošević. He had plenty of ambition and no evident scruples. He was perfect.

Twenty years on, Hadžić was isolated and abandoned. His realm, the RSK, had been swept away, and Milošević had been dead for more than five years. In an effort to help him make ends meet, one of Hadžić’s childhood friends tried to sell a plundered artwork, but the intended favor only helped corner him. It was a painting attributed to the Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani, taken as booty during the Croatian war. The art market was awash with such looted treasure, real and fake, but it was also thick with informers and spies. The French external intelligence service, the General Directorate for External Security (Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure, or DGSE), had a particularly strong presence. One of its officers was even given a special award for extended service undercover in the Balkan art world 1. The French alerted Serbian intelligence, who monitored Hadžić’s friend and set a trap. In the wooded hills of Fruška Gora National Park near the Serbian-Croatian border, he was cornered and captured like the last grizzled specimen of a once ferocious breed.

The masked policemen turned him toward a camera to capture the moment. Surprise had given way to realization and resentment on Hadžić’s hangdog face. By now he was fifty-two years old. The warrior’s beard was gone, leaving a graying mustache and sagging jowls. The only familiar features left from his glory days were the angry eyes and the sneer, which once looked at home with his camouflage fatigues but now jarred with the baby-blue T-shirt he had chosen for his meeting.

The pathetic scene at the end of the forest trail marked the culmination of a long and extraordinary history. Hadžić was the last fugitive to be caught in a fifteen-year manhunt, involving the pursuit, arrest, or surrender of all those indicted for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide by a special court created by the United Nations in The Hague, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

The ICTY, or the Hague Tribunal as it came to be popularly known, was established in 1993 as an experiment in international justice. It was the first time in the history of conflict that a truly global court had been created to pursue war criminals. It embodied the conviction that a universal sense of humanity could and should be upheld in the face of mass atrocities, transcending national jurisdiction.

The dramatic landmark trials at The Hague have been the subject of several books and countless articles. But those trials would never have taken place if the defendants had not been tracked down, arrested, and brought to court. That pursuit itself was a historic achievement. It took a very long time, but by 2011 all 161 people on the ICTY list of indictees faced justice one way or another. Former prison camp guards and ex-presidents all stood before the same tribunal. More than half the suspects were tracked down and captured. Others gave themselves up rather than lie awake every night wondering whether masked, armed men were about to storm into their bedroom. Two committed suicide. Others decided they would rather die in a blaze of gunfire and explosives than be taken alive. Two of them got their wish.

The individuals and agencies who pursued the suspects were many and various, but most did their work in the shadows, their successes never acknowledged. This account is based on interviews with more than two hundred of these people—former soldiers, intelligence officials, investigators, data analysts, diplomats, and officials from a dozen nations who were directly involved in the manhunt, most of them speaking about their actions for the first time. A majority agreed to talk only on the promise of anonymity, as the arrest operations are still classified in their home countries. Part of the narrative is also based on a trove of previously secret British government documents, declassified by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in response to a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

Special forces from six countries took part in the hunt, the biggest special operations deployment anywhere in the world before 9/11. Polish commandos made history by becoming the first soldiers to carry out an arrest on behalf of the tribunal—to the surprise of many, including their own government. Britain’s Special Air Service (SAS), who carried out NATO’s first manhunting missions in Bosnia, brought techniques learned in Northern Ireland. The participation of a newly formed German special forces unit in an arrest operation, at the cost of some serious injuries, marked the first time that country’s soldiers had gone into action since 1945. And the skills acquired in the Balkan manhunt by America’s elite soldiers in Delta Force and SEAL Team Six would soon be applied to the looming war on terror and to another manhunt—for Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida’s leaders.

An alphabet soup of Western spy agencies, including the CIA, NSA, Britain’s MI6 and GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters), and France’s DGSE, conducted a parallel manhunt in the shadows with varying degrees of success. Despite the millions spent, none proved as effective as a small, secretive tracking unit inside the Hague Tribunal, which hugely enhanced the clout of the once-derided court.

From time to time, this multinational array of soldiers, spies, and sleuths acted in concert, following a trail that led from the Balkans west to the Canary Islands and Buenos Aires, and east as far as St. Petersburg and the Black Sea resort of Sochi. Just as often, they tripped over one another in their pursuit of conflicting national and institutional interests. That helps explain why the manhunt took so long 2. The story of the manhunt’s success contains within it many stories of failure. To survivors and families of victims waiting for justice, it did not feel like a triumph at the time. It is only now, when it is all over, that it stands out. There has been nothing quite like it in history.

The ICTY did not just complete its mission, rare enough for a UN operation and all the more striking in view of the patchy and ambivalent support it received from the major powers. The relentless pursuit of the indictees also made legal history. It led to the arrest and trial of Milošević, the first sitting head of state ever to be charged with war crimes by an international court. At the time of writing, the two men who presided over the worst of the atrocities in Bosnia—Radovan Karadžić, the Bosnian Serbs’ political leader, and his military commander, Ratko Mladić—are on trial for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. The trail of blood was followed, not just to the immediate perpetrators of the mass atrocities but all the way to the orchestrators, the master butchers themselves.

Along the way, the ICTY defined mass rape for the first time as a crime against humanity in international law, as a result of atrocities committed by Bosnian Serb forces in the town of Foča. It was a legal breakthrough that would have meant little without the actions of German and French special forces, who tracked down the rapists and brought them to The Hague.

Before the ICTY’s creation, there was no institutional framework for judging war crimes and crimes against humanity. There was an attempt to put Napoleon Bonaparte’s commanders on trial for treason in 1815, but the effort collapsed. More than a century later, the British government sought to prosecute Kaiser Wilhelm for war crimes but failed to persuade Holland, where the Kaiser had taken refuge, to hand him over 3.

After the Second World War, the question loomed once more of what to do with leaders, officials, and soldiers responsible for mass atrocities, and it was by no means inevitable they would be put on trial. Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt initially approved a plan for summary executions of top Nazis, lest their survival help rally their followers 4. The trials in the ruined city of Nuremberg were something of a lastminute decision.

Meanwhile, in Tokyo a parallel tribunal was established for Japanese war crimes suspects, but Emperor Hirohito and members of the imperial family were exempted. Neither Tokyo nor Nuremberg succeeded in drawing a line in human history, despite the hopeful mantra of “never again.” More than forty-five years later, mass murder returned to the modern, industrialized world.

Genocide and other mass atrocities challenge our idea of what it is to be human. The acts perpetrated against innocent victims are so grotesque and disturbing, we recoil from their contemplation. We prefer them to be either far away or long ago. When Yugoslavia began to fall apart, the rest of Europe started to distance itself, like neighbors of a dying household. Shutting their doors, they convinced themselves that if they looked the other way, they would never catch the disease. Western politicians diagnosed “ancient ethnic hatreds” let loose by the fall of Communism as the cause of the bloodshed 5. It was one of a litany of excuses for not getting involved, but it explained nothing.

The history of the ethnic communities that made up Yugoslavia had indeed been marked by sporadic bouts of violence but those eruptions had been interspersed by long periods of peaceful coexistence. The same could be said of most regions in Europe’s diverse and turbulent continent.
Yugoslavia marched into hell because its leaders took it there. When Communist dogma lost its already tenuous hold on people’s minds with the fall of the Iron Curtain, the more ideologically flexible and unscrupulous of the fading Communist elite, led by Milošević, switched to nationalism. The leaders packaged it as a new emotional certainty in the face of the chaos and fear left by the collapse of the old order. The challenges of converting a totalitarian state into a democracy, or turning a command economy into a free market, were waved away with colorful flags, hazy nostalgia, and folk music. Political power at the breakup of Yugoslavia depended on the ability to weave myths, wield arms, and manipulate reality.

No one was better at this than Milošević, but he was not alone. His Croatian counterpart was another rebranded Communist, the former Partisan officer turned nationalist Franjo Tudjman. In Bosnia and Herzegovina (a), Alija Izetbegović, a paler and frailer version of the national strongman, unfurled his party’s green flag and offered his people a sense of Muslim identity. It was a defensive nationalism, however. Bosnia’s Muslims generally did not nurse irredentist ambitions, but they were afraid that the revival of backward-looking nationalism among their neighbors would once more mark them as prey. Izetbegović was playing a dangerous game, waving a green banner with little to defend it.

His neighbors Milošević and Tudjman did not make the same mistake. As Yugoslavia collapsed, they armed their foot soldiers. Milošević had access to a near-bottomless arsenal thanks to Serb domination of the Yugoslav National Army (Jugoslavenska Narodna Armija, or JNA), once one of the largest militaries in Europe. The Croats took a smaller share of the JNA arms stockpile and as war approached they smuggled in weaponry to narrow the gap.

Milošević and Tudjman drew up maps expressing their dreams for a Greater Serbia and a Greater Croatia, aspirations that left little if any room for Bosnia. Neither of these despots regarded the Muslims—known as Bosniaks (b)—as a distinct ethnic group, viewing them respectively as renegade Serbs or Croats who had converted to Islam.

The new nationalist maps were clear and simple, filled with solid blocks of color. The reality of Yugoslavia on the other hand was uncommonly messy. It was pockmarked and spattered by more than a thousand years of human interaction, mingling Croats and Serbs with Illyrians, Romans, Goths, Asiatic Huns, Iranian Alans, and Avars.
The mix was stirred repeatedly by outside powers and rival empires—Roman, Frankish, Byzantine, Habsburg, and Ottoman—who scattered its constituent parts, occasionally adding new ingredients. Religion and ethnicity were intertwined throughout, creating both harmony and discord. The people of the western Balkans largely converted to Catholicism under the sway of the Franks and Habsburgs. Those in the east followed the Orthodox Christianity of Byzantium. Caught in between, many of the mountain people of central Bosnia converted to Islam after the Ottomans arrived from the east in the fifteenth century.

Mixing, migration, and intermarriage intensified during the two incarnations of Yugoslavia, as a monarchy in between the interwar period and as a Socialist federal republic after the Second World War. The mingling was made all the easier by the fact that the three biggest communities—Serbs, Croats, and Bosnian Muslims—shared a common language (c).

The result was a complicated country that looked nothing like the simple ethnic maps being circulated in the death throes of Yugoslavia. Making allowances for ethnic nuance would have robbed the nationalist message of its simplicity and power. Rather than change their maps, the nationalist leaders sought to force change on the flesh and blood of the region, creating ethnically pure territories, by terror when necessary. Whether they were nationalists or not, one community after another was confronted by the brutal violence unleashed by a deceptively simple question: Why should I be a minority in your country, when you could be a minority in mine? 6

Yugoslavia unraveled in a succession of increasingly ferocious wars. The first in Slovenia was little more than a prelude. After ten days of skirmishes with Slovene separatists in the early summer of 1991, the JNA withdrew. There were hardly any Serbs in the renegade republic, and Milošević let it go. He was conserving his strength for the next battle.

Croatia, which had a sizable Serb population (d), had declared independence on the same day as Slovenia. Milošević and Tudjman may have seen eye to eye on the division of Bosnia but they had very different maps of Croatia. Milošević wanted the Serb-inhabited area, the Krajina, for a Greater Serbia, while Tudjman’s map of Croatia was all one color. His independence constitution downgraded the new nation’s Serbs, about one in nine of the population, from a constituent people to one of many minorities. His rhetoric played into Milošević’s hands. Belgrade television had been stoking local Serb fears with reminders of what happened the last time Croatia had been officially independent. It had been a Nazi puppet state, run by the fascist Ustasha movement that committed genocide against Jews, Serbs, and Roma in Croatia and Bosnia. Memories of the death camps may have faded in Western Europe, but they were kept fresh in the Balkans by the propaganda of resurgent nationalism.

As soon as he was confident he had secured the Serb enclaves in Croatia, Milošević turned his attention to Bosnia. The techniques were the same. Proxies were armed, under the direction of Karadžić, a psychiatrist and poet from Sarajevo. In Bosnia, regular Yugoslav units simply swapped insignia and declared themselves to be the Bosnian Serb army, commanded by Mladić, a veteran JNA officer.

With Milošević’s support, Karadžić and Mladić would go on to oversee the ethnic cleansing of Serb territory, the siege of Sarajevo, and ultimately the massacre of Srebrenica. The embryonic Muslim-led army organized by Izetbegović was no match for Serb forces, and in 1993 it was forced to fight on two fronts when the Bosnian Croats, egged on by Tudjman, turned on their Bosniak neighbors.
An estimated twenty thousand people died in the Croatian war. About a hundred thousand were killed in Bosnia. The much higher death toll in Bosnia reflects its greater ethnic diversity—more territory to be cleansed—and the relative defenselessness of the Bosniak population. More than 80 percent of the civilians killed were Bosniak 7. Overall across the region, two civilians were killed for every three soldiers who died in battle. The whole conflict was characterized by random brutality. Psychopaths were made masters of the life and death of their former neighbors. Their barbarity was invariably sanctified by the nationalist leaders as self-defense against an enemy depicted in grotesque terms, as either Nazi Ustasha, wild-eyed Islamic fundamentalists, or Serb Chetnik  marauders (e).

The genocide of the Nazi era had set a precedent for mass killing that was never erased, only half buried under Tito’s slogan “Brotherhood and Unity.” Half a century later, the ghosts of Yugoslavia’s past arose and nationalism once more cut like a hacksaw through the human bonds that had held diverse communities together, unleashing murder. In the name of the nation, everything would be allowed.

The Serbs were by no means alone in committing mass atrocities. Croatia was also responsible for the ethnic cleansing of Serbs from its territory, as well as Muslims from the parts of Bosnia that Croatian nationalists coveted. The Muslim-led Bosnian army carried out serious crimes, running a small but appalling prison camp just southwest of Sarajevo, for example. The Kosovo Liberation Army carried out brutal reprisals against Serb civilians. Members of all these groups were brought before the ICTY for judgment. But Serbs were responsible for most of the mass atrocities and accordingly Serb names made up the majority of The Hague’s wanted list.

Faced with such an enormous moral challenge at a time of volcanic upheaval across the whole of Europe, Western leaders dithered. Neither they nor their armies were equipped doctrinally or intellectually to halt the Balkan atrocities in 1992. A newly united Europe failed its first great test. Its troops had rehearsed fighting as junior members of an alliance against a massed Warsaw Pact offensive on the German plains. They had not been trained to parachute into an ethnic conflict.

Meanwhile, the American military was still recovering from the trauma of Vietnam. Colin Powell, who was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when Yugoslavia collapsed, had gone to fight in Indochina as a young officer and then spent much of his military career trying to ensure his country did not repeat the mistake. His eponymous doctrine stipulated that the United States should only go to war if it could deploy overwhelming force for clearly defined national interests with broad public support. Bosnia ticked between one and zero of those boxes.

On the campaign trail in 1992, Bill Clinton had promised to use American military might to stop the mass killing in Bosnia 8, but once he was in office that promise was quickly forgotten. The young president, who had avoided serving in Vietnam, did not have the confidence to take on the military.

Unwilling to intervene to stop the slaughter, the UN Security Council took two initiatives to try to mitigate it. It sent in peacekeepers to safeguard deliveries of humanitarian aid, and it established the ICTY to prosecute war crimes in the hope of deterring further atrocities.
Blue-helmeted UN troops were sent into the thick of the war, but they arrived shackled with restrictive rules of engagement that allowed them to open fire only to defend themselves, not to protect the civilian victims falling like mown grass around them. By escorting aid convoys, the UN Protection Force (UNPROFOR) could stop Bosnians from starving, but not from being shot or blown apart. They became passive witnesses to genocide. At times their compliance with Serb intimidation went to the very edges of complicity.

So when the UN Security Council gathered in February 1993 to vote the Hague Tribunal into life,a the global powers already owed a huge debt to the victims of Yugoslavia, and the rhetoric of the occasion made weighty promises of what the new court would achieve.
“There is an echo in this Chamber today,” declared Madeleine Albright, the American envoy to the UN and a former refugee from genocide herself. “The Nuremberg Principles have been reaffirmed … this will be no victors’ tribunal. The only victor that will prevail in this endeavor is the truth.”9

In reality, the court came into being as an exercise in penance and distraction, the unstable product of high ideals and low politics. For the world powers at the UN Security Council it was a gesture toward justice in lieu of military intervention. The mass atrocities would not be prevented, but they would be judged after the victims were dead. This is how the ICTY was born: as a substitute. It represented the promise of justice tomorrow in place of salvation today for the people of Yugoslavia.
Most of the nations who brought this new judicial creature into being had no expectation that it would ever function properly. It was initially so short of money it could not afford to lease a court building, and it took eighteen months to find a chief prosecutor. No one of the right caliber wanted to do the job. The judges found themselves presiding over an empty theater of justice, without prosecutors or anyone to prosecute. Antonio Cassese, an Italian professor of international law appointed as the tribunal’s first president, complained: “The Security Council thought we would never become operational. We had no budget. We had nothing. Zero.”10
Cassese’s judges were paid on an ad hoc basis. The UN granted them just enough money for a handful of computers and two weeks’ rent on a suite of offices in The Hague’s Peace Palace. Looking for more space, Cassese heard that the insurance company Aegon was only using part of its faded Art Deco building on Churchillplein. He decided to rent it, but squeezing money out of the UN was so hard that the tribunal was unable to put down a deposit on a long-term lease before the summer of 1994. Prosecutors and investigators shared a cafeteria with Aegon’s actuaries and account managers, which meant they could never discuss cases at lunch, for security reasons. And they only had enough room for a single court, a converted conference room. But what good was a court anyway, without defendants?
Just at the point when the judges were considering mutiny or resignation, Nelson Mandela kept the tribunal alive by helping to persuade Richard Goldstone, a South African lawyer and veteran anti-apartheid campaigner, to take the chief prosecutor’s job in July 1994 11. In the eighteen months it had taken to find someone suitable, thousands of people had died in Bosnia and Herzegovina. And the tribunal was still far from functional. There was no one willing to carry out arrests. Goldstone’s staff scrambled to piece together a string of indictments wherever there was evidence to do so, but the overwhelming majority of the seventy-four indictments issued in the Goldstone era concerned small fry—camp guards who had tortured their former neighbors and who could be readily identified by survivors. The urgency to demonstrate the tribunal was operational left no time to build more sophisticated cases against the master butchers.
The court’s first defendant was a perfect example of this “low-hanging fruit” syndrome. Duško Tadić had been a particularly sadistic guard at two notorious Bosnian Serb prison camps, Omarska and Keraterm. He fled to Germany after the war but was spotted in a benefits office in Munich by camp survivors, who called the local police. In November 1994, Tadić arrived in The Hague to become the world’s first war crimes defendant for two generations. Yet for all the tribunal’s attempts to play up the echoes of Nuremberg, it was clear this brutal turnkey was no Hermann Göring or Joseph Goebbels. Most of the other names on Goldstone’s indictment list were similarly inconsequential. Their pictures were printed on posters distributed among UNPROFOR battalions, who tacked them up on their barracks notice boards and ignored them.
The international community was finally shocked out of its indecision and half measures by the worst single massacre of the Bosnian war, the murder of more than eight thousand men and boys by Serb forces after the fall of the Muslim enclave at Srebrenica in July 1995. A handful survived the mass executions, acting dead and climbing out of mass graves over the bodies of their friends and relatives. It was impossible for the world to ignore their testimony, but the most chilling account of all was to come from one of the killers.
Dražen Erdemović was a Bosnian Croat locksmith married to a Serb. In a country that was falling apart, with its people forced to choose sides according to ethnicity, Erdemović belonged nowhere. At different points in the swirling conflict he had served in the Croat, Bosnian, and Serb armies, trying to survive in noncombat jobs. But in July 1995, when he was twenty-three, he was dragooned into a Serb execution squad at Srebrenica, where he witnessed things he would never be able to forget. The awful scenes were lodged deep in his brain.
Eight months later, Erdemović started looking for someone to confess to. He called the US embassy in Belgrade but was turned away, so he went to the press 12. The police, who tapped journalists’ phones as a matter of course, picked him up but it was too late. His story was all over the world, and the Milošević regime had little choice but to hand him over to The Hague 13.
Erdemović became the first person since Nuremberg to be sentenced by an international tribunal for crimes against humanity. But he will be remembered mostly for the excruciating testimony he gave on the events of July 16, 1995, when 1,200 men and boys were killed at a single site.
They would bring out groups of ten people out of the bus and, of course, they were looking into the ground. Their heads were bent downwards and their hands were tied and they were blindfolded … They took them to the meadow. So we started shooting at those people. I do not know exactly. To be honest,… I simply felt sick 14.
NATO intervention and a Croatian ground offensive forced a peace treaty, signed in November 1995 by Milošević, Tudjman, and Izetbegović at an air force base in Dayton, Ohio. But Milošević was not quite done with war. In a brutish epilogue to his decade of misrule, he sent troops into Kosovo in 1998 to crush a fledgling insurgency by the province’s Albanians. Like his earlier adventures, it left a mountain of corpses—more than ten thousand dead—and backfired totally. NATO intervened again in March 1999 with a bombing campaign that forced Milošević to withdraw his troops three months later. Kosovo declared independence in 2008.
Once more, Western intervention only came after the dead were already in their graves 15. Justice arrived even later. The Dayton Accords did indeed stop the killing in Bosnia, but the divisions created by ethnic cleansing were frozen in place. The persistent influence of Karadžić, Mladić, and Milošević meanwhile threatened to render Dayton meaningless and make the Hague Tribunal a colossal farce.
Yet by 2011, the ICTY manhunters had crossed off all the names on their indicted list. As this book goes to press, the last trials are under way. Karadžić and Mladić are in the dock facing the very people they tried to obliterate. Witness testimony is streamed live online. Millions of documents have been analyzed and saved. Transcripts are posted online. The buried crimes of the past are dug up and laid in the open for all those who can bring themselves to look.
It was a more substantial endeavor than the hunt for Nazis after World War II. The US-led investigators at Nuremberg had the advantage that most of their suspects had already been captured or had surrendered. The prosecutors mostly chose defendants according to the prisoners of war they already had in their cells, rather than according to the scale of their crimes. Only one prominent Nazi was tried in absentia because he could not be found—Hitler’s private secretary, Martin Bormann, whose remains were identified in 1998 16. The real precursor to the ICTY manhunt was the US Department of Justice’s Office of Special Investigations, established in 1979. Over the next quarter century, OSI “Nazi hunters” tracked down and prosecuted more than a hundred war criminals who had tried to hide in the United States 17.
Whereas the Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals never escaped the taint of “victors’ justice,” the ICTY represented the first genuine attempt at an international reckoning for war crimes on all sides in a conflict. The judges and prosecutors were drawn from around the world, and the defendants came from four fledgling nations—Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo.18 The effort to bring them to justice was long, uneven, and mired with mistakes, but it ultimately emerged as the most successful manhunt in history and an extraordinary testament to the tenacity of a remarkably small group of people. This book tells their story.

Slobodan Milošević
Slobodan Milošević

Franjo Trudman
Franjo Trudman

Radovan Karadžić
Radovan Karadžić

Ratko Mladić
Ratko Mladić

Notes
a. This is the full name of the Socialist Republic and then the independent nation, which will mostly be referred to simply as Bosnia for the rest of the book, for the sake of brevity.
b. Bosnian Muslims formally adopted the term “Bosniaks” to describe themselves in 1993.
c. Known in Yugoslav days as Serbo-Croat, it now known as Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian (BCS). Apart from a handful of differences in vocabulary, the only major distinction is that the Serbs use the Cyrillic alphabet.
d. About 11 percent of Croatia identified as Serb.
e. Chetniks were Serb bands who harried the Turks during the Ottoman era and during the Second World War were revived as a royalist resistance movement that fought first against then for the Nazi-backed regimes in Zagreb and Belgrade.

1. Former DGSE agent Pierre Martinet said that one of his colleagues earned an award for undercover service in the Balkan art world. The possession of high-quality art in the hands of thugs like Hadžić and his circle is not as far-fetched as it might appear on the surface. Art theft was a lucrative sideline of ethnic cleansing. A senior Serbian official told me that in some cases, when looted artifacts fell into the hands of Yugoslav intelligence officials who realized what they were worth, they set out to track down the owners, not to return their property but to kill them, eliminating a potential obstacle to selling the work on the global art market. See Pierre Martinet, DGSE Service action: Un Agent sort de l’ombre (Paris: Editions Privé, 2005).
2. It was literally a manhunt. There was just one woman on the list of indictees, Biljana Plavšić, and she turned herself in.
3. For a comprehensive history of the long quest for international justice, see Gary Jonathan Bass, Stay the Hand of Vengeance: The Politics of War Crimes Tribunals (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000).
4. Ibid., 12.
5. Britain’s prime minister at the time, John Major, bizarrely blamed the Bosnian war on “the collapse of the Soviet Union and of the discipline that that exerted over the ancient hatreds in the old Yugoslavia.” As Noel Malcolm pointed out in his book Bosnia: A Short History (London: Macmillan, 1994): “The ‘discipline’ exerted by the Soviet Union on Yugoslavia came to an abrupt and well-publicized end in 1948, when Stalin expelled Tito from the Soviet-run Cominform organization.”
6. A question attributed to Kiro Gligorov, Macedonia’s first president after independence.
7. The figures given in this paragraph are according to Mirsad Tokaca, The Bosnian Book of the Dead (Sarajevo: Research and Documentation Centre and Humanitarian Law Center of Serbia, 2013).
8. David Rieff, Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of the West (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995), 27.
9. Julia Preston, “UN Security Council establishes Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal,” Washington Post (February 23, 1993).
10. Bass, Stay the Hand of Vengeance, 215.
11. Ibid., 220.
12. Louise Branson, “Serbian Killer Turned Away by US Embassy,” The Sunday Times (March 17, 1996).
13. In return for his testimony Erdemović wanted to move his family to the West and be given immunity from prosecution. The tribunal was unwilling to guarantee the latter. On March 2, 1996, perhaps in the hope of forcing events, he and another soldier arranged to meet a correspondent for the French newspaper Le Figaro. They sat down to talk in a small country hotel near the Hungarian border. Erdemović was just twenty-five with a face still pockmarked by acne. He had been drafted into the black-uniformed Tenth Sabotage Detachment, which performed some of the gory labor in executing the eight thousand Muslim men and boys captured at Srebrenica. The Serbian security services stopped the journalist at the airport and confiscated the tapes of her interview with Erdemović. He was arrested half an hour later but prosecutors intervened quickly to ensure he was given up to the Hague Tribunal. Erdemović was flown to The Hague but was not granted immunity.
14. Ultimately, the judges reduced his sentence to five years because they accepted his argument that he had taken part in the executions on threat of death. His commander told him, “If you do not wish to do it, stand in the line with the rest of them and give others your rifle so that they can shoot you.” ICTY transcript, Erdemović trial, November 19, 1996.
15. On July 15, 2014, a civil court in The Hague held the Netherlands accountable for the deaths of the men and boys the Dutch UN battalion handed over to the Bosnian Serbs at Srebrenica. “Dutch State Liable for 300 Srebrenica Massacre Deaths,” Associated Press (July 16, 2014).
16. Skeptics still doubt the official story that Bormann committed suicide after a failed attempt to flee Berlin in 1945. The Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal always believed that Bormann and his entourage managed to escape to South America.
17. A 2008 internal Department of Justice history of the OSI, “Striving for Accountability in the Aftermath of the Holocaust,” was obtained by the National Security Archive at George Washington University.
18. The ICTY also looked into possible violations by NATO in its 1999 bombing campaign against Serbia, which was aimed at forcing Belgrade to withdraw its troops from Kosovo, but prosecutors decided there was insufficient evidence that civilian casualties were intentional.

Next, The Legacy