French forces aid in capture of besieged Ivory Coast leader Gbagbo

French special forces April 11 aided in the capture of Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo in Abidjan. Gbagbo surrendered after French tanks moved in on his residence while it was surrounded by opposition leader Alassane Ouattara’s forces. Gbagbo had refused to leave office since his defeat in presidential elections last November. France deployed forces to the Ivory Coast as part of a UN-backed peacekeeping mission to stem the post-electoral violence. It was reported that French special forces captured Gbagbo and turned him over to Ouattar’s forces, but Youssoufou Bamba, UN envoy of president-elect Ouattara, said it was the opposition leader’s forces who made the arrest. However, there are still conflicting reports over what forces actually made the arrest. Gbagbo is being held in a hotel with his family under the protection of UN and pro-Ouattara forces. France claims that its intervention in its former colony is only at the UN’s request.

Last week, a Human Rights Watch report urged Ouattara to conduct an investigation into alleged atrocities carried out by his forces in its attempts to secure the presidency. According to the report, the pro-Ouattara forces, known as the Republican Forces of Cote d’Ivoire, killed more than 100 civilians, raped at least 20 supporters of Gbagbo and burned at least 10 villages in March. Earlier this month, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reported the deaths of at least 800 civilians in the Ivory Coast town of Duekoue as a result of intercommunal violence. Earlier, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights urged all parties in the Ivory Coast to show restraint and called for an independent investigation into post-election violence. In January, UN officials expressed “grave concerns” regarding the post-election violence, cautioning that genocide could be imminent.

From Jurist, April 11. Used with permission.

France is taking a more aggressively interventionist role in Africa, and actually conducted the first air-raids in the Libya operation.

See our last post on Ivory Coast.

  1. War continues in Ivory Coast
    Dozens of bodies littered the streets of an Abidjan neighborhood May 3 as fighting continued between Ivory Coast troops and the remnants of a militia loyal to deposed leader Laurent Gbagbo. An army commander said the remaining pro-Gbagbo fighters in the Abidjan neighborhood of Yopougon were mostly Liberians who had crossed the border in the election dispute’s aftermath as soldiers for hire. (Reuters, May 3)

  2. Gbagbo to The Hague
    The International Criminal Court (ICC) took former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo into custody Nov. 30 for his upcoming initial appearance before the court. He was surrendered to the ICC by the national authorities of the Ivory Coast the day before and brought to the Netherlands in response to a warrant of arrest that was issued by the judges last week. The warrant charged Gbagbo with four counts including murder, persecution, inhumane acts, and rape and other forms of sexual violence. The prosecution believes that the violence by pro-Gbagbo forces was committed through an “organizational policy” under his command. Gbagbo’s initial appearance is scheduled for Dec. 5. (Jurist, Nov. 30)