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Côte d'Ivoire

Skeleton found in Côte d'Ivoire may be missing Franco-Canadian journalist

AFP/Issouf Sanogo

French forensic scientists are to carry out tests on the DNA of a skeleton found in Côte d'Ivoire on Friday to see if it is that of Franco-Canadian journalist Guy-André Kieffer, who disappeared in Abidjan in 2004.

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The skeleton was discovered on Friday near the western town of Issia in the presence of French investigating magistrate Patrick Ramael.

Ramael has been investigating the Kieffer case since 16 april 2004 when the journalist mysteriously disappeared.

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Kieffer had been due to meet the brother of Simone Gbagbo, the wife of former president Laurent Gbagbo, and was reporting on embezzlement in the cocoa sector, the pillar of Côte d'Ivoire's economy.

DNA samples from the skeleton have been sent to a laboratory in Nantes, west France. If results show the DNA belongs to Kieffer, the French inquiry will concentrate on who ordered and carried out Kieffer's abduction and possible murder.

Alexis Gublin, the Kieffer family's lawyer, told RFI it was no accident the French judge had discovered the body in the middle of Côte d'Ivoire and that this backs up the theory of links between Kieffer's disappearance and Simone Gbagbo's entourage.

“The body was found following a lead that we hadn't been able to follow when Laurent Gbagbo was in power,” he said. “We had to wait until [current President] Alassane Ouattara came to power for checks to be carried out under normal conditions. I believe this fact suppports the theory that Simone Gbagbo’s entourage is implicated, as indeed the inquiry has tried to show from the outset.”

Gublin says that even if links between Simone Gbagbo's entourage and Kieffer's disappearance are corroborated, the aim is not necessarily to press charges. The family is awaiting the DNA test results, expected on Tuesday or Wednesday this week, before deciding on its next step.

In 2009, shortly after Ramael started investigating the Simone Gbagbo connection, Ivorian officials charged two French nationals, businessman Jean-Michel Aron-Brunetière and presidential advisor Jean-Yves Garnault, in connection with Kieffer's disappearance. 

Both denied any involvement.

Map of Côte d'Ivoire
RFI/Anthony Terrade

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