By Franck Felix Gutenberg, US Africa News. Updated 2015-01-02

Simone Gbagbo
         The trial of Simone Gbagbo, former first lady of Cote d'Ivoire, opened on Friday December 26, 2014 in Abidjan. She is accused of aiding the movement to keep her husband in power after his defeat in the 2010 elections, igniting four months of civil war. The Ivorian people poured into the street when the former president refused to concede power after his electoral defeat against current president Alassane Ouattara; the violence resulted in an estimated 3,000 deaths in the months that followed.

        Under substantial police escort, the former Ivorian first lady, wearing a yellow floral ensemble and braided hair for her first public appearance in three years, entered the courtroom to emphatic applause on Friday, December 26, and was seated in the front row among the accused. She had been under house arrest in the north of the country since April, 2011, until December 1, when she was transferred to Abidjan, where she is currently being held in a military school. Chief accusations cited by prosecutor Yabo Odi against the former first lady include endangering the security of the state, installing militant groups, insurrection, disrupting public order, tribalism, and xenophobia.  The accused include not only Simone, but 82 other supporters of Gbagbo, including the former Prime Minister and party leader Pascal Affi N'Guessan. 

        The trial was suspended until Monday December 29, after two days of hearings and has been postponed again until January 6, at the request of defense lawyers, who wanted more time with their clients:  “We have not yet had the opportunity to meet with our clients to better organize their defense,” said Dadjé Rodrigue, attorney for the defense. Simone Gbagbo was respected for her militancy and has been accused of connections to a series of deaths of Ouattara supporters.  Her case is a subject of negotiations between the Ivorian authorities and the International Criminal Court (ICC). 

        Cote d'Ivoire is refusing to allow the transfer of her case to the ICC, as it feels this would affect the process of national reconciliation and that the outcome of this case will set a precedent on the standards of a fair trail.  "The ICC does not have the authority to judge the case if national authorities are already taking action, but can intervene if Côte-d'Ivoire is unable to bring the perpetrators to justice," said Fadi el Abdallah, spokesman for the ICC. This highly publicized trial will serve as the first major post-crisis legal challenge for Côte-d'Ivoire, whose refusal to transfer Gbagbo to the ICC could be seen as its answer to the question of whether her crimes constitute “crimes against humanity.”