April 11, 2011

Ivory Coast’s Laurent Gbagbo arrested

Ivory Coast politician Laurent Gbagbo has surrendered after a military assault on his residence in Abidjan and has been put under UN guard.

Forces of his UN-recognised successor, Alassane Ouattara, and French tanks advanced on his residence where he had been ensconced in a bunker.

Mr Gbagbo had been refusing to cede power, insisting he won November’s presidential election.

There are conflicting accounts of how he finally surrendered.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the detention of Mr Gbagbo had brought to an end months of unnecessary conflict, and the UN would support the new government.

‘Signal to dictators’

UN peacekeepers had accused pro-Gbagbo forces of endangering the civilian population and asked France, the former colonial power, to take out the defiant leader’s heavy weapons.

“The head of the snake has been cut off,” said one soldier loyal to elected President Alassane Ouattara. “Gbagbo’s militia will simply vanish now. The war is over.”

“It’s great,” said another man. “We are just so happy, and so relieved. The war is finished now.”

Is it? Much, I suspect, will depend on how Mr Ouattara handles the next few days, and what signals he sends regarding the treatment of both Mr Gbagbo and his armed supporters.

Troops now consolidating their hold on Abidjan will need to act forcefully to ensure there is not a rash of reprisal killings.

There have been allegations of atrocities by both pro-Gbagbo and pro-Ouattara forces. The UN has reports of more than 1,000 people being killed and at least 100,000 fleeing the country.

Ivory Coast’s permanent representative to the UN, Youssoufou Bamba, said Mr Gbagbo would stand trial.

Source: BBC News