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Ivory Coast judge Ehonou Manlan makes a stop in Colonie

Ivory Coast Judge Ehounou Manlan, Colonie Clerk of the Court Julie Gansle and Colonie Town Justice Andrew Sommers meet at the Colonie Public Safety Center on Thursday, Sept. 1.

Ivory Coast Judge Ehounou Manlan, Colonie Clerk of the Court Julie Gansle and Colonie Town Justice Andrew Sommers meet at the Colonie Public Safety Center on Thursday, Sept. 1. Photo by Andrew Beam.

— “There are abuses by authorities, but the underlying factor is the lack of education and knowledge on the part of people,” Manlan said, “especially in rural areas and with women. So we look to inform, educate, train and assist them.”

People appear to be much more aware of what their rights are in the U.S., Manlan said, but it is because of particular structures that are put in place in the government that protect citizens from any abuse.

Manlan was able to sit in on court proceedings on Thursday and witnessed a small claims case go through. What impressed him was the judge allowing the plaintiff and the defendant to try and resolve a complaint amicably before it ever went to trial.

“That’s something that doesn’t exist,” he said about his country

Manlan met with Bob Tengeler, chairman of the Colonie Ethics Board, where he discovered yet another structure in local government meant to protect citizens from government corruption and abuse.

“What’s critical is we need to have mechanisms and structures in place if you’re going to have an open and transparent government,” he said.

Sommers said he was impressed by the passion displayed by Manlan for his mission to try and fight corruption and provide education to his country’s citizens. He said he spoke with Manlan quite a bit about domestic abuse in the Ivory Coast and how some women do not know to go to the authorities when abuse has occurred.

“What he was telling us is there is a great push towards education in letting women know they should be treated equally and if something is happening they should talk to authorities about it,” Sommers said. “I think they are way behind the United States on that.”

There were some similarities and differences between the American judicial system and the Ivory Coast’s, Sommers said, and it was a great learning experience for him. For example, he learned there is only a jury selected for a murder trial and that three judges preside over a case. When deliberations take place, all of the judges and members of the jury discuss the case and come to a majority vote on a ruling, which he said is nice because nothing ever comes to a tie. He also said there is no appeals process in the Ivory Coast.

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