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Ouattara Government Forms New Ivory Coast Army

Ivory Coast's President Alassane Ouattara (R) shakes hands with General Philippe Mangou, chief of staff of former pro-Laurent Gbagbo Defense and Security Forces (FDS), at the Hotel du Golf in Abidjan, April 12, 2011

In Ivory Coast, President Alassane Ouattara's new government is recruiting more security forces to improve conditions in the commercial capital after more than four months of political violence. Life is increasingly returning to normal less than a week after the arrest of former president Laurent Gbagbo.

In the fight to bring President Ouattara to power after he won November's vote, groups of young men rose up in pro-Ouattara neighborhoods of Abidjan to confront former president Gbagbo's army.

Now some of those Ouattara militiamen are getting the chance to join the new Ouattara government as soldiers and policemen. Yaya Cisse is a trainer for the new Republican Forces of Ivory Coast.

Cisse says these are civilians who will be trained to become real soldiers. Those who want to become policemen will continue. Those who want to quit, he says, we will let them go.

Replenishing Ivory Coast's security services is a big part of restoring order in the commercial capital where President Ouattara wants to quickly resume cocoa exports, reopen banks, and restart the refinery to get the country's economy moving again.

With the post-electoral crisis over, President Ouattara says Ivorians must now engage in two big projects: the project of reconciliation and the project of reconstruction. He says it may take several months to fully restore security throughout the country, but that can be accomplished if everyone adopts a spirit of democracy and peace.

Electrician Mohammed Dikite says the challenges are substantial, especially in security. But he believes Ivorians are ready to regain their place in West Africa after nearly a decade of instability, civil war, and political violence.

Dikite says with Ouattara there can be an Ivory Coast as strong as it was under founding father Felix Houphouet-Boigny. That is what people are hoping for. The Gbagbo government did not build roads or hospitals or universities, Dikite says, it only attacked its own people.

Gbagbo was captured by Ouattara forces Monday and has been moved to a presidential villa in northern Ivory Coast, where U.N. Special Representative Young-jin Choi says he is under the projection of both Ouattara forces and U.N. peacekeepers.

"We will continue his protection, " said Choi. "So wherever he goes inside Cote d'Ivoire, there will be UNOCI forces to contribute to his protection. We will do everything we can do so that he will be treated with dignity."

Choi says it is up to the Ouattara government to decide on criminal charges against Mr. Gbagbo. President Ouattara says the former leader will face both national and international justice for crimes against the Ivorian people.

Gbagbo's daughter has established a Paris-based legal defense fund for her father, who she says is being illegally detained by what she calls Ouattara rebels.