Laurent Gbagbo, the Ivory Coast strongman who has, for the past five months, refused to cede power to Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognized winner of the country’s elections last November, was captured after a week-long standoff at his residence.
“There [was] heavy fighting involving French soldiers, the United Nations and our forces against Mr. Gbagbo’s forces,” said a spokeswoman for Ouattara. “Once all heavy weapons were destroyed, Mr. Gbagbo was there and we arrested him.”
The country has existed in a state of violent paralysis for the past week, as Gbagbo hid out in a bunker in his private residence in an attempt to cling to power as the country disintegrated. Horrible atrocities have marked the conflict; earlier this month, hundreds of civilians were massacred in Duékoué, a town in western Ivory Coast. The really disturbing element of this violence (apart from the fact that many innocent citizens died) is that Ouattara’s troops seem to have participated in the killing of civilians. The International Criminal Court has said that they will launch an investigation into the event, and Ouattara says that he will begin an investigation of his own.
An end to the fighting will, obviously, be important to restoring everyday life, especially in the capital of Ivory Coast, Abidjan. French and UN forces intervened more forcefully in an attempt to forestall more civilian death. Life has been nearly impossible in Abidjan, where citizens were trapped inside their homes without food, water or electricity. The French military is, according to CNN, working to reconnect disrupted water and electricity.
We’ll keep you posted on the unfolding situation in Ivory Coast – but Gbagbo’s capture is certainly an important step in ending the violent, destructive, months-long conflict, even though the many refugees mean that Ivory Coast’s struggles are far from over.
Over 10,000 Care2 members showed their concern for the innocent citizens of the Ivory Coast by signing our petition asking for their protection. Thanks you for your concerns. We are glad to see progress is being made in the Ivory Coast.
Photo from Flickr.