I Coast wants suspects in Ghana arrested

2011-10-07 10:21

Accra - Ivory Coast's president on Thursday urged Ghana to carry out arrest warrants issued over his country's post-vote conflict as he visited the neighbouring nation where allies of Laurent Gbagbo have fled.

Alassane Ouattara also called on Ivorians in Ghana to return home, with thousands having taken refuge in the country during the conflict, and sought to reassure them that those who had done nothing wrong would not be prosecuted.

A joint statement following the Ivorian leader's talks with Ghana President John Atta Mills said Ouattara had made the request regarding arrest warrants linked to the crisis that the UN says left some 3 000 people dead.

Dozens of figures of the former Gbagbo regime have been detained in Ivory Coast, including Gbagbo himself, but a number of his political and military allies have taken refuge in Accra, including those targeted by arrest warrants in Abidjan.

"President Alassane Ouattara made a request for Ghana to consider the implementation of the mandate to freeze accounts of and effect the arrest warrants issued against those persons presumed to be guilty of criminal action committed during the Ivorian post-electoral crisis," the statement said.

According to the statement, Ghana agreed to consider the request and a meeting between security officials for both countries will soon be held in Abidjan.

At a press conference, Mills said "we would not allow anybody to use our territory to destabilise Cote d'Ivoire".

Rule of law

Ivorian and Ghanian officials as well as the UN refugee agency also signed an agreement on the voluntary repatriation of those who fled Ivory Coast.

Ouattara held a meeting with Ivorians in Ghana on Thursday afternoon, calling on them to return home.

"I came to tell you to return to the country because Ivory Coast is peaceful," Ouattara told an audience of around 1 500 Ivorians in the Ghanaian capital. "Security has returned and is being strengthened every day."

He said the country "needs you" to allow it to develop.

"Under the rule of law, the justice system must carry out its work," Ouattara said.

"Those who have done nothing wrong have nothing to fear. For those who have committed crimes, whatever nature they may be, the justice system will not be abusive."

Politicians loyal to Gbagbo exiled in Accra had hoped to have a separate meeting with the Ivorian leader, but they were refused and told to join the rest of the crowd, leading them to boycott the gathering.

Gbagbo's FPI party has set up an operation "in exile" in Accra, led by former minister Assoa Adou. Gbagbo spokesman Justin Kone Katinan, budget minister during the crisis, has been signing off on the party's combative statements.

Sources familiar with the situation said prior to the visit that Abidjan had been angered over Gbagbo allies' activities in Ghana.

"What irritates the government is mostly the fact that pro-Gbagbo figures walk the streets of Accra even though arrest warrants have been issued against some of them by the Ivorian justice system," a Western diplomatic source said ahead of the trip.

Green light

"Ouattara is going to put pressure on Atta Mills."

There are also suspicions in Abidjan over the role played by former Ghana leader Jerry Rawlings, who is seen as an ally of Gbagbo and maintains significant influence.

A source close to the government in Abidjan said Ouattara wants to ensure the border between Ivory Coast and Ghana is secured to avoid any potential infiltration by Gbagbo loyalists.

But according to the source, "the risk is clearly less serious in Ghana than in Liberia". The election violence left weapons and mercenaries circulating between Ivory Coast and Liberia, which holds its own elections on October 11.

A number of combatants crossed over from Liberia to carry out attacks in western Ivory Coast, where some of the worst violence occurred during the post-election crisis.

Ivory Coast's crisis broke out following November elections, when Gbagbo refused to concede defeat and hand over power to Ouattara despite results showing he lost, leading to a five-month conflict. Gbagbo was captured in April.

On Monday, International Criminal Court judges gave the court's prosecutor the green light to probe atrocities committed by opposing forces in the aftermath of the disputed polls.