Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Ivory Coast's Gbagbo Arrested, Ending Months-Long Standoff

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Ivory Coast's Gbagbo Arrested, Ending Months-Long Standoff

Article excerpt

Forces loyal to president-elect Ouattara stormed former president Gbagbo's bunker Monday and arrested him, ending the political standoff but not necessarily the violence between their supporters.

Ivory Coast's Former President Laurent Gbagbo was arrested today in a joint raid by French forces and fighters loyal to President- elect Alassane Ouattara, French embassy officials in Abidjan have confirmed.

The operation came after weeks of fighting and a weeklong siege of Mr. Gbagbo, who barricaded himself in the bunker under his presidential palace, refusing to cede the presidency. The heavy fighting kept most civilians indoors and created food and water shortages, leading to a sharp deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Abidjan. Security also deteriorated, as fighters on both sides took to looting and banditry.

After emerging from his bunker, Gbagbo was brought to the Golf Hotel, which Mr. Ouattara set up as the de facto government headquarters. A French military spokesman told the Associated Press that no French forces were involved in the arrest.

Five key reasons Ivory Coast's election led to civil war

While Mr. Gbagbo's arrest is a major milestone in Ouattara's attempt to assume his position as president - which he won in elections certified by the United Nations, the African Union, and other election observer teams - it is unlikely to mean an immediate end to fighting.

Forces loyal to Gbagbo seem to have already slipped beyond his control in the past few days. Gbagbo denied ordering an attack on UN peacekeepers on April 2 and one on the Golf Hotel, also a major UN base, on April 9. Those attacks are suspected of provoking the UN and French forces to intervene forcefully against Gbagbo's heavy weapons.

"The attack on the Gulf Hotel says one of two things about Gbagbo: either he lost control of a large part of his fighting force, or he realized that if he said he was responsible for the attack it would be the pretext for a full attack on his arsenal," says Richard Moncrieff, a West Africa researcher at the South African Institute for International Affairs in Johannesburg. …

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