Conflict & Justice

Ivory Coast's Ouattara says Gbagbo will not be taken by force (VIDEO)


A member of Forces loyal to Ivory Coast's internationally recognised president Alassane Ouattara looks through binoculars ahead of an attack on the residence of Laurent Gbagbo in Abidjan on April 6, 2011.



ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast — Ivory Coast's internationally recognized president sought to assert control over the country and insisted blockades rather than violence would be used to oust his defiant predecessor from a subterranean last stand.

In a televised address, Alassane Ouattara called for an end to sanctions on main ports in the world's leading cocoa producer and promised to restore order to conflict-ravaged West African nation.

But Laurent Gbagbo — whom Ouattara defeated in a U.N.-backed vote last year — remained defiant, insisting he would not surrender despite air strikes on the residence where he is holed up with his wife.

In his broadcast late Thursday, Ouattara urged troops to restore order in the capital, Abidjan, whose four million citizens are being terrorized by armed gangs of Gbagbo's supporters.

"The authors of the crimes will be punished," he said, adding that his own troops must be "exemplary in their behavior and to abstain from any crime, any violence against the population or any act of pillage."

Fearful of attacks by armed gangs, Abidjan residents have hidden in their homes for days. Many have run out of food and water and are going out for provisions, exposing themselves to sniper fire.

Amid the lawlessness, uniformed soldiers from Gbagbo's forces have twice invaded the hotel in downtown Abidjan, where many journalists covering the crisis are based. Four people were kidnapped.

Ouattara also called for an end to EU sanctions and laid out plans to re-start the country's war-stalled economy and reconnect utilities to millions of homes without power and water.

"I have also asked the central bank BCEAO to reopen its branches in Ivory Coast, to ensure a resumption of operations in all banks so as to enable the payment of salaries and arrears in the shortest possible time," he said.

"I have instructed the minister of mines and energy to make arrangements to restart the refinery, and in the meantime to ensure a steady supply of butane gas and fuel."

Turning to Gbagbo, who has resisted international calls to stand down since losing last November's election despite spiraling violence, Ouattara said he would be blockaded in his residence and forced to give himself up.

Speaking via a spokesman in Europe, Gbagbo reiterated his claim to sovereignty and said he had no plan to surrender or leave the country he has ruled for 10 years.

"I reached the head of state and his wife less than an hour ago and no — he will not surrender. President Gbagbo will not cede," his adviser Toussaint Alain told the Associated Press.

"It's a question of principle. President Gbagbo is not a monarch. He is not a king. He is not an emperor. He is a president elected by his people."

In New York, Ouattara's envoy to the United Nations Youssoufou Bamba, gave assurances that Gbagbo would be captured alive and made to stand trial.

He said: "He will be alive and well. He wants to be a martyr. We won't allow [his death] to happen," he said.

Meanwhile, United Nations humanitarian chief Valerie Amos expressed concerns for the safety of hundreds of thousands of people swept up in the conflict after returning from a trip to Ivory Coast.

Amos said she had seen evidence of "what must have been terrible violence," and warned that perpetrators would face justice.

"While we don’t yet know the full extent of the atrocities that have been carried out, they clearly add up to extremely serious human rights violations.”

Amos said there was urgent need to deliver humanitarian assistance to up to one million Ivorians displaced by the violence, many of whom have been forced to flee into neighboring countries.