Mr Gbagbo’s was arrested by French special forces

Alassane Ouattara’s first full day in power was marked by sporadic gunfire and
mortar rounds.After the deafening cacophony of heavy weapons that marked Monday’s ousting of his rival
Laurent Gbagbo, Tuesday was by comparison quiet.But the
continued fighting shows the extent of the challenge facing the international
banker-turned politician who now leads Ivory Coast.There were
reports of shooting taking place in the largely pro-Gbagbo suburb of Yopougon;
in the upmarket Cocody area where Mr Gbagbo’s former residence is; and in the
central Plateau business district.The shooting was generally believed to be between forces loyal to Mr Ouattara – now known as the Republican Forces of Ivory Coast (or FRCI) and remnants of the pro-Gbagbo army and militia.For the
past few days I have, for security reasons, along with a number of other
foreign and Ivorian journalists, been staying in the French military base next
to the main airport in the Port Bouet area of southern Abidjan.In this
area there was sporadic gunfire and the sound of at least one mortar round
being launched in the direction of a university campus Large
numbers of students associated with the Fesci student union joined militias
loyal to Mr Gbagbo, so it is probable this shooting was associated with them.It was too
dangerous to investigate these incidents on the ground.Foreign
journalists are generally condemned by Mr Gbagbo’s supporters because they have
been perceived as backing the United Nations-certified election results that
saw Mr Ouattara declared the winner.In the time
I have been here several journalists have had close calls – either having their
cars shot at, or being harassed by militias close to Mr Gbagbo.

Humiliated Gbagbo

at the Golf Hotel in the plush Riviera district, one room is reserved for a
president, another for a prisoner.Laurent
Gbagbo was taken to the Golf on Monday after he was captured along with about
50 of his close family and associates.A
Ouattara-controlled TV station, TCI, showed pictures of Mr Gbagbo sitting on
the edge of his bed, his casual patterned shirt a stark contrast to the bright
yellow-painted walls of the hotel room.French television showed a more animated scene in another room – fighters loyal to Mr
Ouattara, in combat uniforms, were taking turns to have their picture taken
with the humiliated former leader.The next day, Tuesday, President Ouattara began the highly sensitive operation of rebuilding the national army.This
complex political task involves deciding which officers to appoint to the FRCI,
which to exclude and – possibly – which to prosecute.Ouattara has already said that Mr Gbagbo will be investigated for potential
charges of war crimes. If this is the case, it would seem logical to also
prosecute military officers who carried out the orders.But of
course President Ouattara will not want to alienate too many officers who
control armed men. He will have to walk a political and military tightrope to
get the balance right.Another
sensitive issue Mr Ouattara will have to face is the manner in which he came to
sources concluded a few days before Mr Gbagbo was arrested that there was a
stalemate in central Abidjan between the forces of Mr Gbagbo and those loyal to
Mr Ouattara.The FRCI
may have swept south from its strongholds in the north with lightning speed,
but when they reached Abidjan, Mr Gbagbo’s tactic of hiding in a fortified
bunker stalled them.When I
visited an area near to the presidential residence in Cocody district shortly
before the arrest of Mr Gbagbo that certainly seemed to be the case.There was
heavy fighting in at least three places – a paramilitary training school, a
university campus and a police station – all within about 1km of the residence.Well-informed
sources in the area said the fighting was a see-saw affair with neither group
winning a decisive advantage.That all
changed on Sunday night when French and United Nations helicopter gunships
roared off from the French military camp to attack targets around the residence
and other locations.At dawn on
Monday a large armoured French convoy drove out of the camp and Mr Gbagbo’s
fate as an ex-leader was sealed The French,
who are by far the best equipped military force in Ivory Coast, took up
positions along the appropriately named Boulevard de France, a road which
splits Cocody north to south.Their aim
was to occupy the areas south of the boulevard – where Mr Gbagbo’s residence is.The French achieved their aim.

Post-colonial sensitivities

happened next is the controversial part. Mr Gbagbo’s people say he was arrested
by French special forces. French diplomatic and military sources vociferously
deny this – saying they secured the area for the FRCI to make the arrest.

was not a single French soldier on the ground at Mr Gbagbo’s residence”,
said the French military spokesman in Ivory Coast, Maj Frederic Daguillon.This may be
true.But it is
also undoubtedly true that the French mounted the military action that allowed
the arrest to take place.This fact
means that Ivorian nationalists may seek to taunt Mr Ouattara with the label
that he was installed by foreign forces.That
doesn’t necessarily make him a “puppet” of the French, of course –
but it’s almost certain Mr Gbagbo’s supporters will seek to portray him as one.The French
foresaw this possibility – hence their public modesty at the significance of
their role.If
post-colonial sensitivities were not so acute, the whole affair could be
portrayed completely differently.The French
could easily be portrayed as the heroes of the day; they could easily present
themselves as the ones who helped kickstart democracy in Ivory Coast.After all,
they were the only ones with the military muscle and the political courage to
try to resolve a situation that was fast becoming more

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This entry was posted in Abidjan, Alassane Outtara, côte d'ivoire, crise election en côte d'ivoire, France, Franceafrique, Gbagbo, Laurent Gbagbo, Libye, Onuci, Sarkosy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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