- West Africa
- Ivory Coast
- Conflicts - Politics
Ivory Coast: Restoration of democracy by force
New Forces rebels in support of Ivory Coast’s democratically elected president Alassane Ouattara are on the verge of forcefully installing him as president and restoring democracy in the Ivory coast.
The rebels have defeated government forces who support defiant President Laurent Gbagbo. Only the neck of land where the presidential palace is located is yet to be overrun by the rebels.
“I’m not sure Gbagbo is in control any longer,” Bloomberg cites Rinaldo Depagne, a Dakar-based analyst for International Crisis Group, as saying. “The first step for a peaceful outcome is Gbagbo coming and saying ‘I quit’.”
Reports claim that the rebel forces have captured cities across Ivory coast including the capital city of Abidjan. Witnesses saw government soldiers escaping from the advancing rebels in pickup trucks mounted with machine guns. So far, the rebels have overrun nearly 80 percent of the country.
"The end is almost here. It’s a matter of hours. We issued our ultimatum yesterday ... If Gbagbo does not want the fighting to happen in Abidjan, he should surrender. If he doesn’t, we have no choice," the New Forces spokesman, Patrick Achi told reporters.
Meanwhile, Meite Sindou, spokesman for Ouattara’s prime minister, Guillaume Soro, has reportedly told reporters today that “Radio Television Ivorienne [state broadcaster] fell into our hands last night”.
"Three-quarters of the country is under control of pro-Ouattara forces. Gbagbo should withdraw if he is reasonable. Otherwise, he will be accountable for the massacres," Patrick N’Gouan, president of Convention de la Société Civile Ivoirienne, an independent national body, warned.
But despite heavy gunfire around the presidential palace, France’s ambassador in Côte d’Ivoire has reportedly told the media that Laurent Gbagbo is still "at the presidential palace in Abidjan".
Mr. Ouattara was declared the winner of last November’s presidential election by the country’s election commission in results confirmed by international observers. But, Mr. Gbagbo after a decade in power, refused to accept his loss.
Top American diplomat for Africa, Johnnie Carson, told reporters that Mr. Gbagbo needed to seize this last opportunity to step aside.
"There is a clear indication that the military forces of Gbagbo have started to disintegrate. The rapid pace at which Alassane Ouattara’s forces have been able to move across the country from east to west and up to Abidjan suggests that there have been widespread desertions in the Gbagbo forces," Mr. Carson said in Washington.
Sensing victory and the opportunity to assume his rightful office, Mr. Ouattara made a final plea to the resolute Mr. Gbagbo to step down or be ousted by force.
"(My fighters) have come to restore democracy and ensure respect of the vote by the people ... Today they are at the doorstep of Abidjan. To all those who are still hesitating, whether you are generals, superior officers, officers, sub officers, rank-and-file ... there is still time to join your brothers-in-arms," Mr. Ouattara said in an address broadcast on his private TV station.
The seriousness of the military advancement against Mr. Gbagbo is such that his army general Gen. Phillippe Mangou, sought refuge at the home of the South African ambassador in Abidjan with his wife and five children.
Confirming the desperation of Mr. Gbago’s government forces, the head of the United Nations mission, Choi Young-jin told reporters that as many as 50,000 soldiers, police and gendarmes had abandoned Mr. Gbagbo. Only the Republican Guard and Mr. Gbagbo’s special forces have remained loyal- guarding the palace and residence.
Many Ivorians however argued yesterday that an armed onslaught will not make Mr. Gbagbo cede power- reiterating his stubbornness and voracity for power. Mr. Gbagbo has discouraged all attempts to find a diplomatic solution.
"He has no intention of resigning. He will not resign in the wake of this attack. He is not going to abdicate. He is not going to lay down his arms. He will stay in power to lead the resistance to this attack against Ivory Coast," Toussaint Alain, one of Mr. Gbagbo’s advisers in Europe told reporters.
Mr. Gbagbo had used the military to attack supporters of Mr. Ouattara with heavy-artillery and has been accused of arming citizen militias and recruiting foreign mercenaries to defend his grip on power.