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April 10, 2011

Clinton Says Arrest of Gbagbo A 'Signal' to Dictators, Tyrants

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the arrest of defeated Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo sends a message to dictators that they cannot disregard the verdict of free elections.  The United States had strongly backed the internationally-recognized winner of last year’s election, Alassane Ouattara. 

The United States had supported the African Union and United Nations effort to dislodge Gbagbo with financial and travel sanctions.  And welcoming his surrender, Clinton said the episode makes clear there will be consequences for leaders who defy the results of free elections.

“This transition sends a strong signal to dictators and tyrants throughout the region and around the worlds," she said. "They may not disregard the voice of their own people in free and fair elections, and there will be consequences for those who cling to power.”

Clinton, who spoke at a joint press event with Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb, called for all Ivory Coast citizens to remain calm and help build a peaceful future for the country, saying that after the five-month crisis, the hard work is only now beginning.

In early December, The United States congratulated Mr. Ouattara as the rightful winner of the country’s November 28 election and called for then-President Gbagbo to accept the internationally-endorsed outcome and step aside.

With Gbagbo, the country’s leader since 2000, refusing to yield, the United States joined in international sanctions against his government, and  imposed targeted U.S. travel and financial curbs against Gbagbo, his wife, and other close associates.

Clinton said the United States looks forward to working with President Ouattarra as he implements plans for reconciliation, economic development and recovery.

The political conflict, which devolved into warfare between supporters of the two political rivals, dealt a severe blow to the Ivory Coast economy, with Gbagbo looting local banks and businesses as the world community severed economic ties with his government.