News / Africa

Ouattara Moves to Restore Security to Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara, April 11 2011
Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara, April 11 2011


President Alassane Ouattara is moving to restore security in Ivory Coast one week after his country's political crisis ended with the arrest of former president Laurent Gbagbo. Mr. Gbagbo held on to power with the help of the military, refusing to recognize that he lost November's vote.

The dramatic capture of Mr. Gbagbo, who was holding out in an underground bunker at the presidential compound, brings to an end more than four months of political uncertainty in Ivory Coast where Mr. Gbagbo and Mr. Ouattara both claimed the presidency.

Mr. Ouattara has ordered his justice minister to prepare charges against Mr. Gbagbo and his wife, Simone, who ran the country for ten years and tried to hold on to power even when the African Union and the international community recognized Mr. Ouattara as the duly-elected leader.

More than 1,000 people died in the battle between rival presidents as pro-Ouattara forces fought their way south toward Abidjan where United Nations and French attack helicopters bombed Gbagbo heavy artillery and rocket launchers.

Jaqueline Yin and her daughter hid in their home. "We were shut inside for three days. We could not eat, could not eat. We had to move to another neighborhood, but the fighting was somewhere else, so we were OK. After three days we got out and now I am walking around to see how things are," she said.

Modest Danon says the fight for Abidjan was the only way to remove Mr. Gbagbo from power and respect the will of voters. "The last week was hard for the Ivorian people because of the fight between pro-Gbagbo and pro-Ouattara forces. But the victory by President Ouattara is a good thing because he is recognized by the international community and was elected by the Ivorian people. Everyone wants to see their lives improve and the country be better organized," he said.

Life is quickly returning to something closer to normal within days of Mr. Gbagbo's capture. Produce from the interior is once again reaching Abidjan markets now that roads are cleared of combat. Most of the big grocery stores and pharmacies are open. Fuel is readily available.

Jaquiline Yin is hoping for a better future for her daughter. "In the future, now that we have a president, life will better. Now that it is all over and we have a new president, life will be good," she said.

Modest Danon says President Ouattara has what it takes to make a difference. "My hope is that we will have a good president here. He is an economist who should be able to make Ivory Coast better because everyone wants enough work and enough to eat to end the suffering of our country," he said.

President Ouattara says the challenges are considerable but can be overcome if everyone stays calm and treats one and other with respect. "We are still in a delicate situation. We still need to secure the country, especially Abidjan, these steps are essential and will still take a few months," he said.

President Ouattara is giving himself two months to completely restore security in Ivory Coast.  In that time, he intends to renew cocoa exports, restart the oil refinery, and reopen banks to get the economy moving again while restoring essential public services to improve conditions for a society disrupted by nearly 10 years of civil war, instability, and political violence.

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