News / Africa

Ouattara Forces Move to Round Up Gbagbo Militants in Abidjan

Pro-Gbagbo militiamen are pictured after their capture in Abidjan, April 11, 2011
Pro-Gbagbo militiamen are pictured after their capture in Abidjan, April 11, 2011

With Monday's capture of former President Laurent Gbagbo, fighters backing Ivory Coast's elected president are now moving to re-establish security in Abidjan by rounding up members of Gbagbo's militant youth wing.

Forces loyal to President Alassane Ouattara line up prisoners on the tennis courts of their hotel headquarters. The men are alleged members of local militia that backed former President Gbagbo, who is now a prisoner himself at the same hotel.

After his arrest by Ouattara fighters who were backed by French special forces, Gbagbo called on all of his supporters to lay down their weapons to end the fighting in Ivory Coast.

But there was still sporadic looting and heavy weapons fire in the commercial capital Abidjan Tuesday where Ouattara forces are searching for members of Gbagbo's militant youth wing, chief among them the former minister for youth, Charles Ble Goude.

Goude led a series of inflammatory rallies for Gbagbo when international mediators were trying to convince him to yield power to Mr. Ouattara.  Ouattara officials say they intend to try Goude for inciting violence against Ouattara supporters and West African immigrants from countries thought sympathetic to Ouattara.

Goude is already under a United Nations travel ban for organizing attacks against foreigners in Abidjan eight years ago.  Regional diplomats say he sought and was refused sanctuary at the Angolan embassy here last week.

Ouattara forces inspect the papers of everyone who passes through a checkpoint in the Riviera neighborhood as young men build cinderblock barricades.  A Ouattara fighter known as Captain Wanto says Abidjan will not be secure until all Gbagbo militiamen are disarmed.

Wanto says their work is not yet finished. He says there are still militiamen and mercenaries in Abidjan. He says Ouattara forces have lost too many loved ones in this campaign to celebrate Gbagbo's capture.

"We are not celebrating because we are in mourning," he said.

The spokesman for the U.N. mission here, Hamadoun Toure, says Ouattara's approach to Gbagbo militants will go a long way toward establishing conditions for reconciliation.

"Of course the whole picture is how to promote social cohesion, national reconciliation, and lasting peace," he said.

Gbagbo fighters and Ouattara fighters are both suspected of human rights abuses, especially in western provinces near the Liberian border.

President-elect Ouattara says his new government will conduct an impartial investigation as part of its efforts to rein in militia.

Ouattara is promising to establish a truth and reconciliation commission which he says will bring to light all massacres, crimes, and violations of human rights. He says young people who joined militias must understand that those groups no longer have any meaning so he is asking them to surrender their arms.

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