Ivory Coast Standoff Ends With Gbagbo's Capture

The former president of Ivory Coast is in jail. Opposition forces, aided by the French, stormed a bunker were Laurent Gbagbo had been hiding. His refusal to step down after he lost the election led to four months of violence.

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This is Morning Edition from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Steve Inskeep. The elected president of Ivory Coast is calling for a new era of hope. That's what he says after a months-long battle against his predecessor who refused to give up power. Alassane Ouattara has called for fighters to lay down their arms, but there was no public celebration of his victory. People feared it could ignite more gun battles.

Joining us now from the country's main city, Abidjan, is NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton.

And, Ofeibea, where exactly are you in the city?

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON: I'm at the Golf Hotel, which is a base of Alassane Ouattara where he had been confined to for about four months, Steve. It's like a giant refugee camp. There are U.N. peacekeepers. There are pro-Ouattara forces. There are people who have fled their homes and have come to camp and take refuge here. It's a giant village, rather noisy. But I think people are relieved that perhaps the fighting has ended.

INSKEEP: Well, if there are people who have basically become refugees at this hotel compound, which is one of the few relatively secure places in the city, is Ouattara going to be able to extend that order at all across the city?

QUIST-ARCTON: That is what he said in his first televised address to the nation since Laurent Gbagbo was captured. He has appealed. And it's especially not so much the armies and the armed forces but to the militia, the young militia men who are armed, who have gone around this city, Abidjan, terrorizing the population, which has been barricaded into its houses - stealing, looting and so on.

He said to them it makes no sense to continue fighting. Lay down your arms, let us restore law and order and reconcile this country and move forward. Now, that's what he's called for, Steve. Delivering on that I think is going to be much more difficult.

INSKEEP: Well, yeah. If you had two opposing armies that were still relatively coherent and you had the leaders agreeing to step down and lay down their arms that would be one thing. But it sounds like you have multiple armed groups -, individuals, gangs and people that you can't necessarily order around.

QUIST-ARCTON: Exactly. And that's the real fear. Restoring, as I say, law and order to Abidjan - which has not been a lawless city in the past - ordinary people are absolutely petrified by what they have seen. And Alassane Ouattara, you know, for those who support him, that's fine.

But for about 50 percent of the nation, which after all did not vote for him, which whoever's results you take, he has got to prove to them that he is the president of all Ivorians.

Many people look at him with suspicion. They say he was behind the 2002 rebellion that divided this nation into north and south. He is a Muslim. He's seen as supported by the French and the international community. So Ouattara, if and when he comes to power as president formally, has got a huge, huge hurdle that he's going to have to deal with.

INSKEEP: OK. Very briefly, if there still is a substantial population that voted for Gbagbo, the former president who has surrendered, what happens to him?

QUIST-ARCTON: In his speech last night, Alassane Ouattara said that he will treat Laurent Gbagbo, his wife Simone - who's also a top politician in their party - with total dignity. But he also said that he is going to be investigated.

Now, that's what Ouattara is saying. But also there are fingers being pointed at pro-Ouattara forces, that they committed human rights abuses. That's being said by humanitarian organizations. So both sides could face some sort of legal action, especially to deal with what is seen as armed people trying to take control of this country. So we'll have to see, Steve.

INSKEEP: NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is in Abidjan in Ivory Coast.�

Thanks very much.

QUIST-ARCTON: Always a pleasure.

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