Do The New York Times.
Former Leader of Ivory Coast Is Captured
Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Published: April 11, 2011
Rebecca Blackwell/Associated Press
Troops loyal to Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognized winner of Ivory Coast’s presidential election last year, had pressed toward the residence where Mr. Gbagbo had been holed up for days. According to French officials, Mr. Gbagbo surrendered at the entrance to the residence, while four French Gazelle helicopters swirled around the area.
“It is my pleasure to announce officially that the former president of Cote d’Ivoire, Laurent Gbagbo, has been arrested,” said Youssoufou Bamba, Mr. Ouattara’s representative to the United Nations. “He is alive and he will be brought to justice to respond to the crimes he committed. In this way, the Cote d’Ivoire reaches the end of its tragedy, of its nightmare.
“His era is over,” Mr. Bamba added, saying Mr. Gbagbo was now “under our custody.”
Cmdr. Frederic Daguillon, a French military spokesman in Abidjan, Ivory Coast’s main city, said Mr. Gbagbo had been taken by forces loyal to Mr. Ouattara, a statement that French and United Nations officials in Ivory Coast, Paris and New York reiterated.
“I can affirm that categorically,” Commander Daguillon said. “There was not one single French soldier in the residence.”
Alain Le Roy, the head of the United Nation’s peacekeeping operations, said that Mr. Gbagbo and his wife, Simone, were now being guarded by United Nations security officials, after Mr. Gbagbo had requested their assistance to ensure his physical safety. Mr. Le Roy noted that the same United Nations security officials who had previously been protecting Mr. Ouattara were now protecting Mr. Gbagbo, while Mr. Ouattara and his government decided on his fate.
Mr. Le Roy said that it was up to Mr. Ouattara to decide on the next step, and that Mr. Ouattara had indicated prosecuting Mr. Gbagbo was an option. Mr. Bamba, the United Nations representative, has previously said that Mr. Gbagbo should be tried for war crimes at the international criminal court in the Hague, but other Ouattara officials have said they might try to bring charges at home.
Hamadoun Touré, a spokesman for the United Nations operation in Ivory Coast, said the United Nations had spoken with Gen. Dogbo Blé, the commander of Mr. Gbagbo’s Republican Guards, and that 300 Republican guards had also surrendered.
“One can guess that he was really weakened by the strikes,” Mr. Touré said, referring in part to the French and United Nations attacks on Mr. Gbagbo’s weaponry at his redoubts in recent days, part of what they called an effort to protect civilians. “I think it weakened him a lot.”
Images broadcast on Ivorian television showed a sweating, plaintive Mr. Gbagbo after his arrest. At one point, he appeared in a white tank-top undershirt, wiping dry his face and underarms with a towel as men dressed in military camouflage looked on, smiling.
“I want us to stop the weapons,” Mr. Gbagbo said in a voice slightly hoarse, in video broadcast on French television.
Mr. Le Roy, the peacekeeping chief, stressed that Mr. Gbagbo’s detainment was an important first step to bringing stability to Ivory Coast, but that it was too early for euphoria.
“It’s an important step in the process," he said. "The crisis is not over and we must establish law and order,” he said, noting that there was a pressing need for national reconciliation to take place.
The capture of Mr. Gbagbo brought a dramatic climax to a four-month standoff that has crippled the nation’s economy and plunged it back into civil war. Mr. Gbagbo steadfastly refused to accept Mr. Ouattara’s victory in the elections last year, insisting that he was still the legitimate president of this West African nation, maintaining firm control over the population by conducting attacks on civilians and rejecting international demands to step down.
Now, he is being held at Mr. Ouattara’s headquarters at the Hôtel du Golf in Abidjan, the same place Mr. Gbagbo had cordoned off since the elections, essentially making Mr. Ouattara and his government prisoners there.
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