Ivorian President Faces Tough Rebuilding Challenges

In the Ivory Coast, former President Laurent Gbagbo is being held under guard at a villa in the commercial capital Abidjan. Meanwhile, new president Alassane Ouattara is trying to pacify the city, after a nearly five-month vicious power struggle.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Now let's go next to Ivory Coast, where the president-in-waiting, Alassane Ouattara, is now set to take power some five months after winning election and after months of civil conflict. First, though, he has to restore law and order in the main city, Abidjan.

NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton has been out on patrol with the security forces.

Unidentified Man: (Foreign language spoken)

Unidentified Group: (Foreign language spoken)

Unidentified Man: (Foreign language spoken)

Unidentified Group: (Foreign language spoken)

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON: President-elect Alassane Ouattara has called on all fighters to lay down their weapons immediately to allow an increasingly lawless Abidjan to return to normal. Security and protecting civilians, says Ouattara, are his immediate focus. That's the task he's given to Ivory Coast's security chiefs.

General PHILIPPE MANGOU (Chief of Staff, Defense and Security Forces): (Foreign language spoken)

QUIST-ARCTON: Just days ago, the head of the army, General Philippe Mangou, was obeying orders from the defeated incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo. Gbagbo's refusal to give up power, after losing November's election, led to the conflict that killed more than a thousand people and displaced more than a million. He was captured on Monday. On Tuesday, General Mangou pledged his allegiance to Ouattara.

Gen. MANGOU: (Foreign language spoken)

QUIST-ARCTON: General Mangou says the words that readily come to his lips are forgiveness and reconciliation, after the bitter battle for Abidjan and a wider crisis that that has divided this once peaceful and prosperous country.

(Soundbite of vehicles)

QUIST-ARCTON: Security patrols fanned out all over Abidjan yesterday, to begin the work of trying to pacify Ivory Coast's biggest and most important metropolis, and mop up a city awash with arms, looters, and abandoned roadblocks.

Residents in some neighborhoods ran out of food and water, and had no electricity or security for days, and sleepless nights.

Ms. KADI BAMBA: (Foreign language spoken)

QUIST-ARCTON: Kadi Bamba described her ordeal living not far from Cocody. That's the suburb where Gbagbo's official residence is located, which came under heavy bombardment by U.N. and French attack helicopters.

Ms. BAMBA: (Through Translator) We were as good as held hostage here for 12 days. All we heard was heavy gun and mortar fire. This road in front of us was littered with bodies, charred corpses, people who were killed because they were from the wrong tribe or had the wrong surname.

(Soundbite of men singing)

QUIST-ARCTON: But it's the armed youth on both sides of the divide that may be difficult to convince about the need for reconciliation.

Concerned citizen, Brahima Diarassouba, worked alongside the military pushing a message of peace.

Mr. SANOU ISSA: (Foreign language spoken)

QUIST-ARCTON: No more hate, no more war, he implores them. We get it, says Sanou Issa, who goes by his nom de guerre Captain Wanto.

Mr. ISSA: (Through Translator) No vengeance. We don't want vengeance. We have neighbors who are Guere or Bete, Mr. Gbagbo's ethnic group. We were born together. We are ready to disarm and forgive. No regrets.

QUIST-ARCTON: But across town, the very people who are meant to be disarming fighters are handing out weapons.

(Soundbite of a conversation)

QUIST-ARCTON: Right now this gentleman is giving the people in this house a weapon. It looks as if the people here who have been attacked, they say the house was attacked by armed looters - young men, they say. They're being given a weapon for protection.

A Kalashnikov rifle and cartridges for self-defense and to keep the looters away, until a soldier can be sent to protect them.

Ouattara warns that Gbagbo could face possible charges for crimes on a national and international level. Forces backing both men stand accused of committing human rights abuses against civilians.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Abidjan.

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