All fighters must disarm, says Ouattara

2011-04-12 12:43

kalahari.com

Abidjan - President Alassane Ouattara called on all fighters to put down their arms now that the longtime strongman has been captured after his refusal to cede power sparked violence leaving bodies piled at morgues.

More than one million civilians fled their homes and untold numbers were killed in the more than four-month power struggle between the two rivals. The standoff threatened to re-ignite a civil war in the world's largest cocoa producer, once divided in two by a civil war nearly a decade ago.

"After more than four months of post-electoral crisis, marked by so many human lives lost, we are finally at the dawn of a new era of hope," Ouattara said in an address to the nation on radio and television late on Monday.

Residents of the commercial capital of Abidjan refrained from celebrating in public, still fearful of the many armed fighters prowling the streets and refusing to believe their leader Laurent Gbagbo had been arrested.

An Associated Press reporter heard heavy fire in a southern district of Abidjan lasting into early Tuesday. Residents in the rest of the city said that most of the combat had ceased, though gunfire continued around three university student residences where pro-Gbagbo militia are believed to stay.

Gbagbo's security forces have been accused of using mortars and machine guns to mow down opponents during the standoff. Gbagbo could be forced to answer for his soldiers' crimes, but an international trial threatens to stoke the divisions that Ouattara will now have to heal as president.

Truth and reconciliation commission


Ouattara cut short speculation that Gbagbo would be delivered to the International Criminal Court at The Hague, calling for an Ivorian investigation into the former president, his wife and their entourage. Ouattara also called on his supporters to refrain from retaliatory violence and said he intended to establish a truth and reconciliation commission.

"Every measure has been taken to assure the physical integrity of Mr Laurent Gbagbo, his wife and all those arrested," he said. "They will receive dignified treatment and their rights will be respected."

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke to Ouattara on Monday and said he expected that with Gbagbo in custody, "any further bloodshed will be avoided", the UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky said in a statement late on Monday.

Nesirky said that, at Gbagbo's request, the UN peacekeeping mission will provide security and protection while Gbagbo is in custody. He said Ban stressed to Ouattara "the need to ensure that there is no retaliation against Mr Gbagbo's supporters".

Gbagbo, who ruled the former French colony for a decade, was pulled from his burning residence by Ouattara's troops on Monday following fighting earlier in the day. The pro-Ouattara forces had received support by French tanks and helicopters.

Gbagbo's dramatic arrest came after days of heavy fighting in which French and the UN helicopters fired rockets at arms depots around the city and targets within the presidential compound.

Ouattara's final push began just after French airstrikes ceased at around 03:00 on Monday. A simultaneous French armored advance secured large parts of the city, and pro-Ouattara troops entered the presidential compound just after midday.

"We attacked and forced in a part of the bunker," Issard Soumahro, a pro-Ouattara fighter at the scene, told The Associated Press.

- AP
Read more on:    alassane ouattara  |  laurent gbagbo  |  ivory coast  |  west africa
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