Gbagbo Daughter: 'My Parents Have Been Fighting For Democracy'
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Now we'd like to get a different perspective. We'd like to hear from a family member of someone who's accused of crimes against humanity. For that, we go to the Ivory Coast in West Africa. In recent years, it had a brief but bloody civil conflict after two rival candidates both claimed the presidency back in 2010. Laurent Gbagbo and his wife Simone, were eventually arrested for crimes against humanity. He's now awaiting trial before the International Criminal Court. She was indicted but will stand trial in the Ivory Coast, not The Hague. Their daughter, Marie Antoinette Singleton, lives in Atlanta and she spoke with us from a studio there. Welcome, thank you so much for speaking with us.
MARIE ANTOINETTE SINGLETON: Thank you, and thank you for having me this morning.
MARTIN: Last November, when the ICC indicted your mother on charges of murder, rape, other forms of sexual violence, inhumane acts, persecution, that has to have been a hard blow. Do you remember how you reacted when you heard that? And do you know how your mother reacted when she understood that she was to be tried for war crimes?
SINGLETON: Well, of course, it was hard to get to that point because as I've always said, my parents have been fighting in Cote d'Ivoire for democracy. They were very active in getting democracy back in Cote d'Ivoire. So for them to get back to that point and to hear the news was really hard, but again, you know, we have hope that things will get better.
MARTIN: Your father is in the custody of the ICC and your mother is to be tried in the Ivory Coast. Do you have more confidence, more or less confidence in one system or the other?
SINGLETON: I don't. I don't because the whole thing is a political issue. Mr. Gbagbo was taken out of power because he did not serve certain interests, especially France's interests in Cote d'Ivoire. I will stress the fact that this whole thing started back in 2002. They've been trying to remove him from power. There's so many evidence out there of what France did, how France was heavily involved in 2002, in 2004 they were not able to do so. So 2010 was the time that finally they used the U.N. to come in and do what they did to remove him from power.
MARTIN: You've lived in the U.S. for - what - more than 13 years now? Yes?
MARTIN: I'm just - I'm wondering if the situation looks different to you from here than you think it would if you lived back home?
SINGLETON: It can be different because I've not been into any of the wars. There's been a lot of movement - military movement from the time that the rebellion started back in 2002. And yes, I've not been there physically to live those events, you know.
MARTIN: So I'm wondering how you know what's true? How do you know what's true? How do you know your parents' version of events is accurate?
SINGLETON: It's not my parents' side of the event. It's the story of a whole country. And you don't have to be physically there to know what's going on. Everything is on the news. Ouattara and the rebellion is a real fact. The country was attacked back in 2002 and it's a fact. Thousands of people died and it's a fact. The president then, Mr. Gbagbo then, had called on the ICC to come and handle the situation. They never came, that's a fact.
MARTIN: There's a lot of talk about the international community. We just had a conversation with an international human rights lawyer who presents cases before the ICC. What role do you think the international community should play in disputes like the one in the Ivory Coast? The one that occurred that involves your family?
SINGLETON: If they're going to be helping the country - because that's their role - if they're going to be helping the country, they need to be fair. They need to be right and they cannot pursue one side and not the other. And again, I insist that (unintelligible) this is an old crisis, but so far, only Mr. Gbagbo has been to The Hague and now they're trying to get Mrs. Gbagbo. But what about the rebels that started the whole war? What about Mr. Ouattara? What about Mr. Soro, who declared himself the chief of the rebellion in Cote d'Ivoire? Why isn't that a problem? We saw what happened in Duekoue, how people were killed because Mr. Ouattara's people were coming down to Abidjan to take power. Why isn't there a problem? Why aren't they being arrested by the ICC?
MARTIN: Are you saying that both sides are bloody? Is that what you're saying?
MARTIN: You're saying that both sides are bloody? Or you're saying that...
SINGLETON: I'm not saying both sides are bloody. I'm saying we know who started the issue in Cote d'Ivoire and that was Mr. Ouattara and the rebels. But the ICC, who was invited back in 2003 to come into the situation, never came. All of a sudden, we want to reduce the crisis to a post-electoral crisis, that is not the truth. If they're going to be doing the job, they need to go back to the real start - beginning of the problem and then call on whoever was responsible.
MARTIN: How are your parents? Have you been able to speak with either or both of them, recently?
SINGLETON: Not recently. I saw my father back in 2012 when I went to The Hague to visit him. I've not been there after that.
MARTIN: Was he well? When you saw him?
SINGLETON: Yeah. He was well. I mean, you know, with all that happened, I was expecting things to be much worse, but I thank God that he was well.
MARTIN: And your mother?
SINGLETON: My mother, of course, I've not seen her and we still haven't had any official permission to talk to her. We asked to go visit her. We're not authorized to. We asked to, you know, talk to her by phone. She doesn't have a phone. You can't talk to her. So you know, I did talk to her one time when someone went to visit her and that person was kind enough to let us talk on their phone. But, you know, there's not a way to talk to her on a regular basis and see how she's doing, which is another issue. There's a lot of human rights violations that nobody's talking about.
MARTIN: Before we let you go, do you believe that reconciliation between the two sides is possible at this point? What would promote that?
SINGLETON: It is possible. It would be possible if the government would be willing to address the issue a different way. If they really want to reconstitute the people, they have to stop arresting people who they call Mr. Gbagbo supporters. They freeze people's assets, people are getting kicked out of their homes, a lot of them are exiled. Nothing is done to bring them back. Nothing is done to give them their wealth and their possessions back. Nothing is done to bring peace between the people.
MARTIN: Marie Antoinette Singleton lives in Atlanta, Georgia. Her parents, the former president and first lady of the Ivory Coast, are now awaiting trial for crimes against humanity. And she was kind enough to speak to us from a studio in Atlanta. Maria Antoinette Singleton, thank you so much for speaking with us and giving us your perspective.
SINGLETON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.