Ivory Coast: Laurent Gbagbo ‘negotiating surrender’

April 5, 2011

The UN says three generals loyal to Ivory Coast’s besieged President Laurent Gbagbo are negotiating terms for surrender in return for guarantees of safety for him and themselves. France says negotiators are on the brink of agreeing his departure. Mr Gbagbo is sheltering with his family in the basement bunker of his residence in the main city, Abidjan. Troops loyal to Mr Gbagbo’s rival, UN-recognised President Alassane Ouattara, say they have surrounded the compound. The UN says Mr Gbagbo’s military and civilian advisers are leaving him.

Three of his generals – the head of the armed forces, the head of the police and the head of the republican guard – have opened negotiations, the UN told the BBC’s Andrew Harding, who is on the outskirts of Abidjan. “We are very close to convincing him to leave power,” French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told the National Assembly in Paris. Mr Gbagbo’s spokesman, Ahoua Don Mello, told the Reuters news agency there were “direct negotiations based on African Union recommendations which said Alassane Ouattara is president”. “They are also negotiating judicial and security conditions for Gbagbo’s camp and his relatives,” Mr Don Mello said.

The deputy commander of the pro-Ouattara forces, Cisse Sindou, told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme: “We won the battle. Gbagbo is with the French. He is negotiating how to leave the country.” Mr Gbagbo had refused to leave office even though the Ivorian election commission declared him the loser of November’s run-off vote, and the UN certified the result. Forces loyal to Mr Ouattara, a former International Monetary Fund economist, began a dramatic military offensive last week, sweeping in from the north and west. US President Barack Obama has condemned the violence, saying it could have been averted if Mr Gbagbo had respected the election result.

Ivory Coast: Laurent Gbagbo negotiating surrender

April 5, 2011

Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo has been holed up in a bunker with his family and a handful of supporters as army generals negotiated his surrender. The former history professor turned politician, who refused to accept that he had lost last year’s election, is facing an ignominious end to his 10-year rule after waging a desperate war to preserve it. As he sheltered in the basement of his presidential palace surrounded by forces loyal to his rival, Alassane Ouattara, the UN said that it had received calls from Gbagbo’s three top generals – the head of the armed forces, the head of the police and the head of the elite republican guard – offering to negotiate terms for surrender in return for guarantees of safety.

The negotiations came after a dramatic 24 hours in Ivory Coast. On Monday night, UN and French forces opened fire with attack helicopters on Gbagbo’s arms stockpiles and bases. Earlier, columns of foot soldiers allied to Ouattara finally pierced the city limits of Abidjan. Gbagbo’s spokesman, Ahoua Don Mello, told Reuters there were “direct negotiations based on African Union (AU) recommendations which said Alassane Ouattara is president. They are also negotiating judicial and security conditions for Gbagbo’s camp and his relatives.” But defiant to the last, Gbagbo’s foreign minister, Alcide Djedje, insisted he was at the residence of the French ambassador in Abidjan to negotiate a “ceasefire” rather than “surrender”. He also denied his leader would go into exile.

“I was sent by President Gbgabo to negotiate a ceasefire and we negotiated all night and reached an agreement this morning at 10.00 GMT,” he said. Ouattara has urged forces loyal to him to take Gbagbo alive, and his advisers have called for Gbagbo to stand trial at the international criminal court. Although the four-month stalemate between the rival presidents seemed to be all but over, there have been continued reports of sporadic fighting and fears of revenge attacks and looting. Ouattara will face a massive challenge to unite the deeply divided, war-torn country and rebuild its shattered economy. “One might think that we are getting to the end of the crisis,” Hamadoun Toure, spokesman for the UN mission in Ivory Coast, told the Associated Press. “We spoke to his close aides, some had already defected, some are ready to stop fighting. He is alone now, he is in his bunker with a handful of supporters and family members. So is he going to last or not? I don’t know.”

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