Ernest Boka (born 7 December 1928, Agboville, Côte d’Ivoire. Died: 6 April 1964, Assabou prison (Yamoussokro), Côte d’Ivoire/photo censors

Ernest Boka: Death of a true patriot

As a tribute to his memory, readers are invited to reflect on two testimonies that shed light on the real circumstances of the death of Ivory Coast first Supreme Court President. 

Those who killed Ernest Boka or had him killed then claimed that overcome with remorse after plotting against the life of Félix Houphouët, he had taken justice into his own hands by hanging himself in his cell.

Both documents hereinafter demonstrate that after his violent death, Ernest Boka was cowardly slandered. A vain attempt to smear forever the memory of a free, upright and proud man! At a time when some who claim to be disciples of Félix Houphouët claim they want to put an end to impunity, let us remember and remind them that the murder of Ernest Boka in the illegal prison of Assabou (Yamoussoukro) has remained unpunished to this day. (Marcel Amondji)

The death of Ernest Boka, as told by Samba Diarra.

"On April 5, 1964, as dusk descends on the Assabou prison, Ernest Boka, with slow and counted steps, is seen crossing the central courtyard, in the direction of the dungeons with Michel Pichard by his side. There is great emotion among the prisoners. First of all because of the personality of the new inmate, a young and brilliant academic, appreciated by all for having revealed himself as a great clerk of the State as a minister and above all president of the Supreme Court.

Secondly, his incarceration seems to indicate that the arrests, after a period of lull, have resumed. For a good part of the night of 5-6 April, prisoners heard muffled noises, similar to those that would have been made by blows to a wall, coming from the side of the dungeons, where only the new resident is locked up. These noises ceased sometime before daylight.

On the 6th, very early in the morning, an unusual commotion shook the administrative part of the prison. Yamoussoukro's head doctor, a Frenchman, Dr Bandelier, was taken to the dungeons. He came out of there after a few minutes, obviously stunned. Samba Ambroise Koné had preceded him there sometime before. The prisoners observed that the latter, on the steps outside the dungeons, runs fingers through his hair, signs himself and bows before entering. Everything indicates that the former Supreme Court president died during the night. The jailers confided that in high places there is talk of suicide. There are consternation and amazement among the prisoners. The following night, with all the lights off, plunging the prison into darkness, they were able to remove the body from the Assabou compound. All-day long on April 7, prisoners refused their meal as a sign of sympathy for the deceased. It was called Black April day.

Is it a suicide, as Houphouët-Boigny assured us? On the subject, the rhetoric developed by the president a week later, on April 13, during his conference at the National Assembly, is not convincing. So many grotesque untruths. What does Houphouët-Boigny say in the statement to "the great meeting announced to inform the nation and the world, represented by the heads of diplomatic missions and press agencies, about the subversive actions and the tragic end of Mr Ernest Boka "?

After observing that he is accountable only "to the Ivorian people for whom he has great respect" and "to God whom he adores", Houphouët-Boigny stated that it is "necessary to put an end to the bleakest accusations, the monstrous slanders, the fanciful interpretations" to "bring (some) clarity" to "the whole plot". Boka was arrested, spent three nights at the presidential palace and then transferred to Yamoussoukro. On the evening of 5 April, Samba Ambroise Koné "specially charged with the surveillance of detainees" came to "inform him of Boka's desire to be heard, having serious things to say and asking him to read a memo he had given to Samba Ambroise". Upon returning, exhausted from his work on economic issues, he did not read Boka's brief until 8.30 a.m. on 6 April.

However, Captain Brouan told him that "at exactly nine o'clock in the morning, Boka had committed suicide ". How did this happen? Boka hung himself from the shower rod. Then, Houphouët-Boigny specifies that the body of the deceased " was still warm when the French doctor, a Catholic, a believer who had been called to examine the body, drew up the death certificate. The doctor tried everything to revive him: death had done its work". He continued: "I ask all those who don't want to believe me and who have their reasons to do so, to get in contact with the doctor in Yamoussoukro. He can confirm the reality of this case, that no abuse was carried out against Boka, nor was there any abuse against Mockey, Banny, Alloh Jérôme, Djessou Lougbo, Ahmadou Thiam, and many others".

The following comments and observations are about the preponderance of animism and black magic in Africa, especially among intellectuals who still carry on with those practices. It underlines the faith that men like Mockey, Koné, Djaument, Boka, have given to the predictions of the marabouts. Houphouët-Boigny argues the brevity of the 3 to 4-hour delay in having the French ambassador to Côte d'Ivoire, Jacques Raphaël-Leygues, read Boka's "confession" to ensure that this document cannot be a forgery, as the writing and style of the deceased could not be imitated in such a short time.

Through these words, Houphouët-Boigny appears as he has revealed himself since January 1963: fabulous, whimsical, cynical, diabolical. His presentation is a fabric of untruths told with unimaginable confidence. It's a lie to pretend that every prisoner in Assabou has a shower and a toilet and that this shower has a rod. We have seen above the layout of the conveniences in the dungeons. We have also seen that it is under torture that the desired confessions are told, contrary to the assurances of the President of the Republic. It was also untrue when Houphouët-Boigny declared that he was unable to meet with Boka on the evening of 5 April.

Boka arrived in Assabou in the typical state in which those who come out of the interrogations carried out by Yamoussoukro's man find themselves: bruised and sore from the blows. Who else but Houphouët-Boigny himself would have dared to put in such a state a man of Boka's rank? Why is it necessary to go to the doctor in Yamoussoukro, whose nationality and Christian faith are insisted upon, to make sure that Boka was not tortured and that he killed himself? It would have been so much simpler to request a forensic report from an international team and present the report drawn up by that team. We reported earlier the time of the entry of Samba Ambroise and his attitude in the dungeons, and that of Dr Bandelier after his visit of a few minutes. What resuscitation did this doctor perform in such a short time?

Boka's "memoir", Boka's "will"? A forgery too, the work of a magistrate of the Supreme Court, an African and freemason close to Boka. The forgery was carried out on 6 April. The man who lends himself to this dirty work leaves the mark of a magistrate concerned about the authenticity of legal documents, by initialling each page in the name of the deceased. Thus, the letter lent to Boka is the only one of its kind addressed by a prisoner to the President. Initialling it makes it distinctive, singular and suspicious. The forgery is beyond doubt for those who are familiar with Boka's purist style, which is very different from that used in the famous testament. Rather than photocopies of this "testament", it is the result of a graphological analysis that should have been presented, to prove that the writing and style are indeed those of Boka.

 

The surveillance of the guards, deceived by Boka to kill himself? Another of Houphouët-Boigny's tricks. Boka could not have deceived any of the guards, not sharing with any of the guards the dungeon compartment where he was alone. Guards and militiamen desert the prison compound at nightfall. Moreover, it can be noted that they remained deaf to the noises that seemed to come from the dungeons, which the prisoners heard throughout the night. Similarly, it is peculiar that, after having admitted all sins, "filth, rot, the ugliness of soul, the shame of all humanity ", Boka took his own life. What meaning can be given to a suicide that does not respond to the refusal to confess the unmentionable? The marabouts, the gris-gris and the magic. Here they are again in the Houphouétien argument, alternately denounced and derided. It's funny to hear Houphouët-Boigny broach the subject of marabouts, fortune-tellers and magic in this way when you know how much credit he gives them! The tragic story of the poor and famous marabout Karamoko Diarrasouba has already been told and commented on.

In all societies, and particularly in Africa, respect and deference are paid to the dead, whoever they are, and whatever they may have done. Relatives and loved ones are the objects of sympathy and compassion for all. But nothing in Houphouët-Boigny's entire speech on April 13 expresses respect and deference for the deceased, nor sympathy and compassion for their parents and loved ones. On the other hand, the desire to sully the memory of Boka, to demonise the man, and to shame his parents and relatives are all too obvious. Monstrous step!

Boka's body is handed over to his parents in a sealed coffin with a ban on opening it. "The blessed land of Yamoussoukro cannot be soiled by a body like this. Go and find a burial place for him in your home," Houphouët-Boigny asserts. The Grand-Morié region in Abey country, where the deceased was from, was taken over by the army and the gendarmerie on 8 April. Despite the ban, the coffin was opened and Boka's body examined. Traces of blows from blunt objects were found: fracture of the upper limbs, oedema of the skull, face and genitalia. There are no signs of strangulation by hanging. Wasn't it to hide this damning truth that it was forbidden to open his coffin?

 

Houphouët-Boigny's thesis of the suicide of the former Supreme Court president does not stand up to analysis. Professor Georges Lavau,  Boka's former Teacher, challenges it in an article published in the French daily Le Monde on 24 April, eleven days after Houphouët-Boigny's statement. (…).

At least four versions of Boka's death have been given. The first is that of the Ivorian Revolutionary Party (PRI) - an underground party - published in a document in 1966. Undoubtedly the authors of this document are well informed about the layout of Assabou's dungeons. Their argument is relevant. But, taking into account the testimonies about Boka's stay in the dungeons, one cannot share their "certainty that Boka did not die in a cell in Yamoussoukro prison, but that his body was transferred there". Unless the man had been surreptitiously  extracted from the dungeons at night, to be brought back there to die in the same conditions, without the prisoners noticing it. What about the blows heard by the prisoners?

The second version complements the previous one, by providing details on the circumstances of the death. It emerges that Houphouët-Boigny dictated his "confession" to Boka on 4 April and asked for details the following day, 5 April. But Boka is said to have rebelled and to have spat in the face of the President, who then ordered: "Bé koun hi" in Baoulé, which means: "Kill him". During the caning that followed this order, Boka reportedly attacked Samba Ambroise Koné, a member of the caning team, and broke his arm with a judo grip. The presidential guards then inadvertently broke the former Supreme Court president's neck . In other words, in this version, Boka would have died outside the dungeons as a result of a burr and his body would have been transferred later.

According to the version delivered to the Assabou prisoners by the presidential guards, Houphouët-Boigny arrested Boka on 2 April intending to present him as the leader of the plots at the 9 April meeting of the GDR heads of state of the sub-region which he had convened in Bouaké and had him transferred on 4 April to the Hôtel de la Plantation. On 5 April, the President reportedly invited Boka, who is not yet formally a prisoner, to a luncheon. Another guest is reported to have been at the lunch, Ambassador Henri Konan Bédié. During the lunch, Houphouët-Boigny is said to have begun to castigate the plotters, especially the academics, and the ambassador is said to have gone further. Boka would then have reacted to the ambassador with the following words: "Henri, how can you talk that way? You know very well all the academics who were arrested. They are comrades, even friends of yours. You know very well that they did not set up any conspiracy... "The president, irritated by these words, would have cried out: 'Boka, you don't believe in plots then? "No! I don't believe in conspiracies, President." Neither does your wife." Houphouët-Boigny, beside himself, would then have slapped Boka, who would have reacted by giving his attacker a judo grip, would have knocked him down and would have started to give him a beating. Henri Konan Bédié would then have sounded the alarm by shouting: "He wants to kill Nanan". The presidential guards and Samba Ambroise Koné allegedly melted down on Boka, beating him with rifle butts, kicks, truncheons, etc., and then killed him. The tortured man was allegedly taken to Assabou, to the dungeon. There, he was allegedly beaten again during the night to punish him for having wanted to "kill Nanan". What an incredible version!

Where's the truth? Difficult to say; but some observations bring us closer to it. The first is that the layout of the dungeons makes suicide impossible, at least as described by Houphouët-Boigny. Moreover, the injuries noted on examination of Boka's body by his parents show that he did not die by hanging, as Houphouët-Boigny asserts, but as a result of injuries caused by blunt objects. Under what circumstances could such injuries have occurred?

That Houphouët-Boigny considered making Boka the leader of the plots - third version - cannot be excluded. As an academic, a freemason, and having built up numerous relationships throughout the Western world in his position as president of the Supreme Court, he is better known as the leader of plots than Amadou Koné, or even Mockey, who is considered to be one of Houphouët-Boigny's followers. Moreover, even in death, the president cannot help making him the leader of plots. Did the two men have lunch together? One is tempted to answer no. But Houphouët-Boigny is such a whimsical man, so comical and concealing, that we can't exclude him. Didn't he have dinner with Charles Donwahi the night before his arrest? Now, was it during his interrogation by Houphouët-Boigny, or following a brawl with him, that Boka was killed? It is more likely that it happened during his interrogation on the afternoon of April 5 by Houphouët-Boigny, along with by Samba Ambroise Koné and Henri Konan Bédié. We have seen that the president is always in the company of certain dignitaries when he conducts his interrogations. It is possible that during this interrogation, the former Supreme Court president, overwhelmed by all suffering, shouted his frustration, quoting Mrs Thérèse Houphouët-Boigny. It is also possible that the president vexed to hear that his wife does not believe in conspiracies, ordered that a special "treatment" be administered to the impertinent man.

What remains is what would have happened in the dungeons on the night of April 5-6. If the noises recorded by prisoners that night came from somewhere other than the dungeons, then Boka died as a result of torture at the plantation during his interrogation. If, however, these noises were indeed made in the dungeons, where Boka was the only inmate that night, then it must be admitted that something monstrous happened there. Indeed, he would then have continued to be secretly tortured, and his death would have been a murder, a cold, premeditated murder. This is the fourth hypothesis of death.

The circumstances of this death are still unclear. What seems certain, however, is that it was not suicide. Murder? We can't bring ourselves to believe it. There remains the smear that Houphouët-Boigny thought he had to cover up, thinking he would avoid responsibility. Suicide, murder or blunder, his responsibility is, in any case, engaged, the death has occurred in a dungeon in Houphouët-Boigny's state prison in Yamoussoukro. The rhetoric developed by the President about this death is ridiculous and indecent. It does not honour its author. Houphouët-Boigny did not expect such a strong reaction of disapproval from the whole world, perhaps unaware that every death of a man is a serious event, whoever that man may be. Hence his unspeakable manoeuvres.

Monsignor Bernard Yago, Archbishop of Abidjan, gave his approval for the burial of Boka under Catholic rites. In other words, the head of the Church in Côte d'Ivoire rejects the version of the suicide. Houphouët-Boigny considers this to be an unacceptable slap in the face. All the more so since the Archbishop of Côte d'Ivoire had previously rejected the request for religious sacraments for his nephew Jacques Aka, a refusal motivated by the fact that the deceased was divorced from a Catholic marriage without the required authorization. In truth, it is not only the version of Boka's suicide that Bishop Yago rejects. It's the whole conspiracy. This position irritates the president, who is considering arresting the man of God. The plan will not be carried out, but will forever mark the relationship between him and Houphouët-Boigny.

"He died during the night. The drama goes unnoticed outside Assabou. It would have been the only death of its kind, we would never have known that Assabou had violent deaths by blows. » 

(Les faux complots d'Houphouët-Boigny, Karthala, Paris 1997; pp. 180-190)

 

 ERNEST BOKA'S FUNERALS

«... The body was already in the coffin placed in a car with police inspectors and gendarmes who were to escort it to his native village "Grand-Morié" of the Sub-prefecture of Agboville. The family, therefore, left with the body on the 8th. They took the road to N'Douci-Agboville. They stopped in Agboville because we had to reinforce the gendarmes' guard. They arrived at "Grand-Morié" on the night of the 8th to the 9th. The inspectors said that they had received orders to bury Boka immediately in the night without opening the coffin. The parents argued that there were customs that required the body to be seen before burial, as well as rites of displaying the body, cleaning it, etc., and that the body was to be buried in a place where it could be seen. (…). The gendarmes formally objected, but the parents did not yield. So they opened the coffin. They took out Boka, who had bloody discharges from the nostrils, mouth, ears, a very swollen nose, and, curiously enough, for a so-called suicide by hanging, the tongue did not come out of the mouth. Boka also had a sinking of the skull bones towards the nape of the neck, the back completely skinned, the left clavicle is broken, fractures to the left upper limb, broken teeth, fractured ribs. His genitalia was swollen (very swollen) as a result of the violence. He also had fractures of the lower limbs. Only the feet appeared solid, while the limbs appeared rubbery. His naked body was found in the coffin with a simple skin knit and a bedsheet. So the family proceeded to wash the body. They were kind enough to expose it, but it was still bleeding, so they put it back in the coffin and left it in the house where he was born from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., where it was buried surrounded by a platoon of soldiers, inspectors and gendarmes who prevented people from attending the burial, saying that they had received this order from the President and that only his father could bury him. Despite that, the villagers went to the funeral.

(Extract from a confidential source document dated May 17, 1964). (Cercle Victor Biaka Boda)

 

Published by Meyan Nanguy Lifestyle Editor

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