In bunker, Gbagbo plays final hand

2011-04-06 10:35

Abidjan - Ivory Coast's strongman Laurent Gbagbo tried to hang on to power for one more day on Wednesday from inside a bunker encircled on all sides by soldiers loyal to his rival.

Diplomats said he had sent emissaries to negotiate, only to then refuse the proposals put before him.

Although Gbagbo is cornered and his army is rapidly disbanding, getting him out of the bunker is not an easy matter. Forces backing internationally recognised leader Alassane Ouattara have received strict instructions to take him unharmed, said several members of the president's cabinet.

After the evening newscast on Tuesday, Ouattara's private TV station showed the movie "The Fall", which traces the last days of Adolf Hitler inside a bunker in Germany.

"This stubbornness is absurd. Gbagbo has no other solution anymore. Everybody has dropped him," French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told France Info radio on Wednesday.

 "He is holed up in the bunker in his residence so we will continue with the United Nations, which is handling that, to put pressure on him so he accepts to acknowledge the reality: There is only one legal and legitimate president today, it is Alassane Ouattara and I hope that persuasion will win and that we will avoid having to resume the military operations."

Down the hill from Gbagbo's luxurious compound, dozens of his soldiers were seen entering a church on  Tuesday where they stripped off their uniforms and abandoned their weapons. Gbagbo's three top generals also said they had ordered their men to stop fighting, the United Nations said in a statement.

Game over

The developments spell game over for a man who refused to accept defeat in last year's election and took his country to the precipice of civil war in his bid to preserve power. His security forces are accused of using cannons, mortars and machine guns to mow down opponents in the four months since Ouattara was declared the winner of the contested vote.

But analysts say Ouattara is acutely aware that while he won last year's election with 54% of the vote, Gbagbo received 46% - representing nearly half the electorate. A diplomat who speaks to Ouattara frequently said that the leader is aware of the danger involved at this stage, because if Gbagbo is killed it may galvanise his supporters.

Choi Young-jin, the top United Nations envoy in Ivory Coast said by telephone that Gbagbo's surrender was "imminent".

"He accepted [the] principle of accepting the results of the election, so he doesn't have many cards in his hands," Choi told Associated Press Television News. "The key element they are negotiating is where Mr Gbagbo would go."

Then, just as he appeared to be on the brink of stepping down, Gbagbo, in his first interview in months, defiantly insisted he had no intention of surrendering power.

"I won the election and I'm not negotiating my departure," he told French TV station LCI by telephone from his bunker. "I find it absolutely incredible that the entire world is playing this ... game of poker."

Veteran observers of this nation on Africa's western edge say the turn of events could have been taken from a biography of Gbagbo.

Playing for time

In Abidjan, he has long been called Le Boulanger, French for The Baker, because he rolls people in flour, a reference to a popular expression meaning to manipulate and deceive others. The election that was finally held last year was supposed to take place five years earlier.

He was given so many extensions that people here have lost count of how many times the poll was rescheduled.

"I think he's playing for time," said a senior diplomat who has closely followed events and spoke on condition of anonymity because he had not been cleared to speak to the press. "His aim is always to buy himself just one more day."

France's Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Gbagbo would be required to relinquish power in writing and must formally recognise Ouattara, the internationally backed winner of the November election.

After amassing at the outskirts of the city on Monday, forces loyal to Ouattara seized the presidential residence where Gbagbo has been holed up overnight. They moved in after the United Nations agreed to act on a Security Council resolution giving their peacekeepers the right to take out Gbagbo's heavy artillery.

Mi-24 helicopters aided by French troops bombarded the outer perimetre of the compound. Those living nearby said the earth shook with each blast.

President Barack Obama said on Tuesday the role of the UN was necessary to end the conflict.

  • Gorilla - 2011-04-06 10:53

    Sounds like the final hours of Hitler...

      DW - 2011-04-06 11:10

      And then he committed suicide...

      1nawty0 - 2011-04-06 11:18

      You can bet... he won't take his own life though!!! He is a coward...!! He will be tried for Acts against humanity...!! You can bet, that he is trying to negotiate his way out of that...!!

  • - 2011-04-06 10:55

    It's amazing how many dictators are found in a hoile or bunker in their last days of power.

  • Simon Goodman - 2011-04-06 11:02

    African leaders will never cease to amaze me. ..."I won the election and I'm not negotiating my departure,"...

      jweer42 - 2011-04-06 11:48

      This is like a kindergarten fight over who's turn it is to play with the toy in the sand box. And the kid with the toy doesn't what to give it up.

      DeonL - 2011-04-06 11:54

      Maybe he is not good with maths like Malema.

      Gorilla - 2011-04-06 11:57

      But he's better at woodwork... "I wood like to remain in charge!"

  • SummerWind - 2011-04-06 11:05

    The African paradigm continues. From the colonial days to 2011. One strong man to be replaced by another strong man. The fate of the African remains - Poverty, disease, corruption, forign aid, forign meddeling, desperation, and anarchy. As the great africa author said 'Things fall apart'. May God have mercy on Africa.

  • Kevin - 2011-04-06 11:06

    Drop a bomb on the bunker and let the country move on to better things than this disgusting form of human life.

      Simon Goodman - 2011-04-06 11:13

      Not that easy, he might have lost but 46% did vote for him, (apparently).

  • tommo - 2011-04-06 11:13

    So if they had an "Evil African Dictators" award ceremony I suppose Bob would win, as he's last man standing? Lifetime achievement award?

      Blougroen - 2011-04-06 15:30

      Agree - probably a fair winner - now that he has disposed of Zuma and the ANC . . .

  • Slingervel - 2011-04-06 11:16

    They must pump Doom into the bunker. It kills insects dead instantly!

  • Vaal Donkie - 2011-04-06 11:22


      Vaal Donkie - 2011-04-06 11:29

      Seriously. Why are they acting so helpless? ADT could get that man out in minutes.

      Stuka - 2011-04-06 14:58

      American's has a bomb for this..they call it MOAB. It has 8 tons of explosives. now you see dictator BOOM!! Ivory Coast have a new man made lake..

  • Ross - 2011-04-06 11:50

    Seal the bunker of with quick-drying cement. Don't forget to leave a hole for the Zyklon-B.

  • Alex Dale - 2011-04-06 11:55

    Mugabe next please.

  • mgmnyatlo - 2011-04-06 11:57

    Looks like all dictators know their fate always lies in bunkers - Mangope and P.W. had theirs too. I wonder if Zuma has one - i don't imply he is a dictator!

  • Alex Dale - 2011-04-06 12:00

    Mugabe next ?

  • yufanyi - 2011-04-06 12:51

    Who swears in Mr Ouattara if Mr Gbagbo doesn't signed power transfer document and accepting Mr Ouattara's gov't?

      Faiker - 2011-04-06 13:21

      They'd probably swear him in using the same path as if Gbagbo died in office. Normally the head of the courts or the electoral commission.

  • take that - 2011-04-06 16:06

    In Africa its a case of loser takes all and the winner nothing. Probably hes trying to negotiate a power sharing govt. Africa lost the plot on Kenya and Zimbabwe where after losing election they allowed the incubents to hold on to power.Now its Ivory Coast.

  • yuda zozo - 2011-04-07 00:50

    we just need some more tomahawks, we can smoke him out!

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