April 11, 2011
Laurent Gbagbo, whose refusal to step down as president of Ivory Coast plunged the country into violence, has been captured in Abidjan and is in the custody of opposition forces. News of his detention came after a column of more than 30 French armoured vehicles closed in on his residence in the city and amid initial reports that he had been seized by French special forces. But both the French government and military insist that Gbagbo was taken by troops loyal to Alasanne Ouattara, who won last year’s presidential election.
A French foreign ministry source said Gbagbo had been arrested by Ouattara’s forces backed by UN and French forces, while a French military spokesman was even more adamant, telling the Guardian: “There was not one French soldier at the scene when Gbagbo was taken.” Other news sources, meanwhile, have reported that Gbagbo may have been handed over to the French by his own “presidential guard”. Gbagbo and his wife are now understood to have been taken to a hotel in Abidjan. A spokesman for Ouattara told the Guardian: “It’s true. Gbagbo has been taken to the Golf hotel by republican forces. Our forces went to the residence this morning and took him out.”
Gbagbo’s spokesman, Ahoua Don Mello, told Reuters: “President Laurent Gbagbo came out of his bunker and surrendered to the French without resistance.” While the details of the capture remain unclear, it is possible that the French and UN soldiers attacked the building, surrounded it and then waited for Outtara’s forces to go in, as France may not have the mandate or legal basis to make the arrest. Gbagbo’s detention followed missile strikes on his compound by ONUCI, the UN force in Ivory Coast, which partially destroyed the building. One western diplomat in Abidjan said that keeping Gbagbo at the hotel could prove to be a security risk.
“I think they’ll put him on a chopper as soon as possible but nowhere in Abidjan is safe,” said the diplomat. “There are legal problems about taking him abroad.” Celebratory gunfire has been heard on the streets of the city and there are reports that Ouattara’s camp is preparing to parade Gbagbo on television to prove his capture.
April 11, 2011
Besieged Ivorian leader Laurent Gbagbo has been detained in the main city Abidjan and delivered to the headquarters of his elected successor. He reportedly surrendered to Alassane Ouattara’s forces after French tanks advanced on his residence. Mr Gbagbo had been refusing to cede power to Mr Ouattara after losing November’s presidential election. France said pro-Ouattara troops had detained him, but an aide to Mr Gbagbo said it was French special forces.
Mr Gbagbo was then taken to the city’s Golf Hotel, where Mr Ouattara has his headquarters. UN peacekeepers accused pro-Gbagbo forces of endangering the civilian population and had asked French troops in Ivory Coast to act against the defiant leader’s heavy weapons. Ivory Coast’s permanent representative to the UN, Youssoufou Bamba, said Mr Gbagbo would stand trial.
In London, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said that if charges were brought, Mr Gbagbo should be tried in an orderly manner. Forces loyal to Mr Ouattara launched an offensive from their stronghold in the north at the end of March, after months of political deadlock during which Mr Gbagbo refused to recognise his rival’s election victory. AFP added that eyewitnesses had seen pro-Ouattara forces entering the presidential compound while French and UN armoured vehicles stood on a road leading to the complex.