Ivory Coast’s Laurent Gbagbo Captured By French In Abidjan

Gbagbo was handed to forces loyal to President-elect Alassane Ouattara, Apollinaire Yapi, an adviser to Ouattara’s government, said by phone. Ouattara has been based at the Golf Hotel in Abidjan, the commercial capital, since the dispute started four months ago.

“He has been handed to the Republican Forces,” Yapi said by phone. “He is here at the Golf Hotel. He arrived by road and he is with several members of his family.”

Gbagbo’s capture comes after United Nations and French helicopters fired on his resident in Abidjan on Sunday following a call from Ouattara to “neutralise” the former president’s heavy weapons. Troops loyal to Ouattara, the internationally recognised winner of the last November 28 election, had failed in various attempt to seize Gbagbo’s house since April 5.

Gbagbo, 65, had ruled the world’s top cocoa producer for a decade, weathering a coup attempt in 2002 and a subsequent civil war that left the country split between a rebel-held north and government-controlled south. The insurgents became the Republican Forces this year, backing Ouattara, 69, and sweeping south in the past month before entering Abidjan on March 31.

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Backing from Ivory Coast’s army and police had allowed Gbagbo to resist four months of international pressure as the UN, African Union, European Union and U.S. called on him to hand over power to Ouattara. Gbagbo alleged voter fraud and said he won the election.

Gbagbo tried to nationalise banks and cocoa stocks as sanctions cut off his sources of income. He attacked Ouattara, whose father’s family is from neighboring Burkina Faso, as a foreigner and a tool of French interests and capitalized on resentment from the mainly Christian south towards the country’s predominantly Muslim north.

The former history professor and longtime opponent of ex- dictator Felix Houphouet-Boigny came to power in 2000 after he won an election in which Robert Guei also claimed victory. Thousands of protesting supporters enabled Gbagbo to enforce his victory.

The 2002 uprising and prolonged conflict led to him extending his presidential mandate, which was supposed to end in 2005.

A peace deal signed in 2007 between Gbagbo and the rebel New Forces led to the installment of Guillaume Soro as prime minister. Soro joined Ouattara’s administration after the Nov. 28 vote.

Gbagbo’s capture ends the four-month stalemate and paves the way for Ouattara, a former prime minister under Houphouet- Boigny and deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund, to move into the presidential palace in Abidjan. Bloomberg