Gbagbo’s arrest, French intervention and the crisis in Ivory Coast

Laurent Gbagbo after his capture.

News reports today Monday April 11, 2011 say incumbent Ivorian leader Laurent Gbagbo has been captured in his residence by French Special Forces and reportedly handed over to rebel leaders at Ouattara’s hotel headquarters in Abidjan.

The French since the beginning of the conflict in Ghana’s western neighbour have made it clear that they were out there to implement a UN mandate. And together with UN Forces, they’ve been mounting sustained military attacks on Gbagbo’s forces until today, when Gbagbo’s arrest was announced.

The crisis in Ivory Coast seem to have gone beyond simply an elections dispute to one of ethnic dimensions as the north pit itself against the south.

While the fighting was going on between Gbagbo’s supporters on one hand and Ouattara’s supporters with the backing of the UN and French Forces on the other, there were many innocent civilians who became victims of the conflict. Some were obviously caught in the cross-fire while others were specifically targeted by armed men from both sides. News and photo reports from Ivory Coast show that armed men from both camps were committing heinous crimes against opponents and perceived enemies. Some people were killed extra-judicially and there are videos making the rounds on social networking sites of some people being burnt alive.

The capture of Gbagbo could make some believe that the conflict would be brought to a speedy end, but it might not end so soon. Examples in Liberia say it won’t end soon.

During the outbreak of the Liberian civil war in 1989, most believed that if the then incumbent Samuel Doe was taken out of the scene, there would be peace in Liberia, but after his capture and brutal killing in the hands of Prince Johnson’s men who displayed the decapitated body of the former military leader in public, the war did not end immediately.

While the international community believe that Ouattara won the November 2010 election run-off, Gbagbo and his supporters believe he had won.

Hopefully, the International Criminal Court (ICC) would look into the matter diligently and prosecute suspects who have committed atrocities against unarmed civilians. No war criminals should be left off the hook.

Now that Gbagbo has been captured by the French and handed over to Ouattara, would Ivory Coast see peace?

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

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