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Cablegate: The New Ble Goude

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RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHAB #0396/01 1701629
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 181629Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY ABIDJAN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4317
INFO RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0210
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C O N F I D E N T I A L ABIDJAN 000396

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/09/2018
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR SOCI UN IV
SUBJECT: THE NEW BLE GOUDE

Classified By: POL/ECON SECTION CHIEF SILVIA EIRIZ FOR REASONS 1.4 (B/D
).

1. (C) Summary. Charles Ble Goude, leader of COJEP
(PanAfrican Congress of Young Patriots), is one of three
Ivorians under United Nations (UN) Security Council
sanctions. However, an offensive seems to be underway,
bolstered by the presidential camp, to re-shape Ble Goude's
public image and portray him as a future statesman. Ble
Goude's transformation began with his national tour in 2007
to promote reconciliation. He has gained prominence recently
by launching a foundation that provides skills training and
employment for youth. All indications are that President
Gbagbo and some of his closest advisors continue to embrace
this divisive and controversial figure. End Summary.

2. (U) Ble Goude was placed under UN sanctions on February 7,
2006 for repeated public statements advocating violence
against UN installations, UN personnel, and foreigners, as
well as directing and participating in acts of violence by
street militias, including beatings, rapes, and extrajudicial
killings. The UN determined that he intimidated the UN, the
International Working Group (IWG), the political opposition,
and the independent press and sabotaged international radio
stations. The UN also found that he was an obstacle to the
action of the IWG, the United Nations Operation in Cote
d'Ivoire (UNOCI), the French forces, and the peace process as
defined by resolution 1643 of 2005.

3. (C) Ble Goude kept a low profile for some time after
sanctions were imposed but has, since last year, undertaken
actions to transform his public image from leader of an armed
militia to statesman. He has been very visible in the media
in the last three months in what appears to be a charm
offensive to demonstrate to the Ivoiran public that he is a
serious political actor. He has conducted press interviews
and his second book is scheduled to be released during the
month of June. According to the French Embassy, Ble Goude
has become a wealthy businessman, with substantial holdings
in hotels, nightclubs, restaurants, gas stations, and real
estate in Cote d'Ivoire. French Emboff told us that Ble
Goude requires payment for all activities he undertakes on
behalf of the Presidency and the FPI governing party.

4. (U) Ble Goude began his political career in the Student
Federation of Cote d'Ivoire (FESCI), rising through the ranks
to succeed current Prime Minister Soro as FESCI's Secretary
General from 1998 to 2000. In 2001, he founded COJEP (the
Pan African Congress of Young Patriots) which he continues to
lead. Ble Goude started his public transformation by casting
himself as a peacemaker and conciliator when he launched a
"peace caravan" in 2007. Over the course of 3 months, he
visited 45 towns throughout the country, spreading the theme
of reconciliation between rebel and government supporters.
Although many observers doubted and continue to doubt his
sincerity, Ble Goude evidently delivered a consistent message
of peace and reconciliation in his speeches to the youth.

5. (U) His newest venture is the launching of a "Forum of
Information and Orientation" that will provide skills
training and find jobs for 200 youth. Minister of National
Reconciliation Sebastien Dano Djedje, a member of the
President's FPI party, delivered a speech at the project's
March 14 launching ceremony. According to Ble Goude, 12,000
young people contacted his Forum seeking to be selected.
Minister for Planning and Development Paul-Antoine Bohoun
Bouabre, also an FPI member, publicly presented Ble Goude
with a check for 5 million CFA (USD 12,000) to support this
project. Ble Goude's forum was covered on national TV and
interviews with him were run several times.

6. (U) The June 6 edition of the government's newspaper,
"Fraternite Matin," featured an interview with Ble Goude
photographed in a suit and tie. Ble Goude said he launched
his Forum because as head of a youth movement, he has an
obligation to guide the country's youth. He lamented that
Cote d'Ivoire's moral fiber has weakened, leading people to
seek shortcuts around the law and to take into account only
those with financial means. Asked by his interviewer to
comment on the arrest of DRC rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba,
Ble Goude responded that one is never a rebel for life,
adding that either one becomes a member of society or ends up
like Charles Taylor or Jean-Pierre Bemba or Jonas Savimbi.

7. (C) While Ble Goude does not seem to have the following he
commanded several years ago, he still has his COJEP faithful
that he could mobilize. He also maintains a strong influence
over FESCI. Konan Bertin Kouadio, President of the Youth
Section of opposition political party PDCI, told Poloffs June
10 that Ble Goude cannot organize the demonstrations and
disturbances that he carried out several years ago, but that
a large number of youth would still take to the streets if he
gave the order. RDR Youth Section head Yayoro Karamokotel
told Poloff that Ble Goude is Gbagbo's youth campaign
manager. Skepticism about whether Ble Goude is genuinely
committed to peaceful political dialogue remains quite high.

8. (C) Comment. President Gbagbo has repeatedly asked the UN
to lift sanctions against Ble Goude and reportedly remains
one of his strongest supporters, along with Simone Gbagbo.
The choice of Ble Goude as youth campaign manager is clever
because the charismatic Ble Goude can easily motivate and
mobilize. It is disturbing, however, that Gbagbo's camp
seems to be grooming Ble Goude for future positions in the
party and/or the government rather than distancing itself
from someone who remains under UN sanctions and who is still
a divisive and controversial figure at home. Embassy contacts
seem convinced that the government is financing the bulk of
Ble Goude's activities, which raises concerns about Gbagbo's
genuine commitment to implementation of the Ouagadougou
Political Agreement (OPA). The government can finance Ble
Goude's jobs for youth initiative, but states it lacks the
funds for the civic service program for ex-combatants, which
is an integral part of the OPA. It appears that Ble Goude is
succeeding in his effort to re-define himself to the Ivorian
public, but whether his actions will eventually bear out his
new image remains to be seen. End Comment.
NESBITT

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