Côte d’Ivoire

    Hundreds of Thousands Flee Ivory Coast Crisis, U.N. Says
    By Adam Nossiter, New York Times, March 25, 2011:

    DAKAR, Senegal — At least 700,000 people have fled their homes in Ivory Coast’s main city, Abidjan, to escape the increasing violence and collapsing economy stemming from the nation’s political crisis, the United Nations said Friday.

    Daily gunfire spurred by Laurent Gbagbo’s efforts to stay in power after losing a presidential election in November has pushed thousands of residents out of neighborhoods surrounding the city’s central districts, while the closing of banks and businesses have led to widespread unemployment.

    “The massive displacement in Abidjan and elsewhere is being fueled by fears of all-out war,” a representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees told reporters Friday in Geneva, estimating that 700,000 to one million people had already left their homes.[....]

    Up to 1 million people driven from homes by violence in Côte d’Ivoire, UN reports
    United Nations News Service, March 25, 2011

    Death toll from post-electoral violence in Côte d’Ivoire rising, UN reports
    United Nations News Service, March 24, 2011

    U.N. Leaks Imperils Ivory Coast Security
    By Monica Mark in Abidjan, Ivory Coast and Joe Lauria at the United Nations,
    Wall Street Journal, March 25, 2011:

    United Nations officials say employees passed sensitive security details to forces loyal to Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo, who has refused to leave office despite losing an election and is facing a mounting rebel movement.

    The leaks raise the prospect that critical security plans for the U.N. mission in the Ivory Coast could be compromised, putting at risk U.N. staff and Ivorian civilians.

    The leaks also come amid criticism that the body hasn't done enough to protect civilians as postelection violence spreads.

    In February, license plate numbers on U.N. vehicles were collected and handed to pro-Gbagbo police manning checkpoints, an official and a diplomat said. Two U.N staff were abducted shortly afterward by pro-Gbagbo youths, but they were later returned to the U.N.

    In another case this month, locally hired U.N. employees are suspected of having shared an internal document to Gbagbo-backed soldiers that details the use of three U.N. MI-24 helicopters. The document, which was later published in the state-owned daily, Fraternité Matin, showed how the attack helicopters planned to protect Ivorian civilians. A Gbagbo spokesman wasn't available to comment.


    UN Security Council Considers New Measures to End Ivory Coast Violence
    By Margaret Besheer at the United Nations, Voice of America News, March 25, 2011:

    The U.N. Security Council is considering tough new measures to press Ivory Coast’s incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo to end months of post-election violence and finally transfer power to his rival Alassane Ouattara, who won the November presidential election.


    France’s U.N. ambassador, Gérard Araud, told reporters Friday that Abidjan is on the brink of civil war, and action is necessary. He said France and Nigeria have presented the Security Council with a draft resolution intended to help end the crisis, and he explained the measures contained in it.



    President Obama’s Message to the People of Cote D’Ivoire
    By Bob Leavitt, The White House Blog,  March 25, 2011 at 09:21 PM EDT

    In the video-taped remarks, President Obama sent an important and very clear message today to President Alassane Ouattara, Laurent Gbagbo, and the people of Cote d’Ivoire:  the United States recognizes President Ouattara as the rightful leader of Cote d’Ivoire and calls on Laurent Gbagbo to step aside in the best interests of the country and its people.  Cote d’Ivoire should—and can—be one of Africa’s success stories, with a thriving economy, a rich history, and a vibrant democracy.

    President Obama has been focused on the situation in Cote d’Ivoire for some time.[....]


    Yeah, right, we can organize bombing of Libya in a week as it suits us, but a real stolen election and subsequent killings and acts against civilians brings the usual couched diplomatic language, disappointment, regret, all the rest.

    Meanwhile Gbagbo gives the finger to the UN, and after 4 months, no external action has happened - just a lot of tut tut tutting. Mr. Gbagbo, you've been a bad boy, "I hope you see the error of your ways and do what's right, not that I want to push you too hard..."

    Don't worry. If we intervene, we're gonna hand off right afterward.

    To the French.

    Right, who'll hand it right back. We know how this game's played.

    I think I'm going to invest in a bunch of "I'm with stupid ---->" t-shirts.

    Ivory Coast president on brink as top general deserts
    Laurent Gbagbo faces bloody overthrow as he loses general and rebels advance on main city of Abidjan

    By David Smith in Johannesburg, Guardian.co.uk, March 31, 2011 20.04 BST

    Ivory Coast's president, Laurent Gbagbo, is facing a bloody deposition after his top general deserted and rebel forces advanced into Abidjan, his seat of power.

    Heavy weapons and machine-gun fire were heard in the centre of Ivory Coast's main city. And French troops were deployed as the four-month political crisis appeared to near its endgame.

    Ivorian sources in South Africa said they heard rumours that Gbagbo could be about to step down, possibly turning to South Africa for a diplomatic channel to end his 10-year rule. Officials in Pretoria denied there had been any approach.

    The speculation was begun by the abrupt departure of Phillippe Mangou, Gbagbo's army chief of staff, to take refuge with his wife and five children at the South African ambassador's residence in Abidjan.

    "We've seen a regime collapse," said one western diplomat, who could hear gunfire and explosions from his residence. "The army is no longer an effective body. It has defected and deserted, and has no leadership now the general has gone into hiding. It lacks any command and control."

    He added: "There's very little to keep Gbagbo in power and he must know it. I just hope he's not one of those men who fight to the death, because it will be a bloodbath."

    Rebels fighting to install Alassane Ouattara as president have swept hundreds of miles over three days. On Wednesday they took the official capital, Yamoussoukro, doing a victory lap in vehicles as people cheered and clapped, and the seaport, San Pedro. But aid workers estimated that the casualties ran into thousands.


    In Ivory Coast, Gbagbo's forces defect en masse: reports
    Forces loyal to Ivory Coast's renegade President Laurent Gbagbo appeared ready to combat Thursday's lightning-quick rebel advance. Instead, thousands seem to have defected.

    By Drew Hinshaw, Christian Science Monitor, March 31, 2011

    Dakar, Senegal--Celebrations are breaking out across Ivory Coast today as forces loyal to President-elect Alassane Ouattara seize city after city in a lightning-fast march to end the reign of renegade incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo.

    After months of waiting for a concession speech that never came, rebels last week launched an offensive deep into southern Ivory Coast, from whence Gbagbo hails.

    Just hours ago, Gbagbos armed forces appeared ready to respond, dragging the country deeper into a second, more vicious civil war on behalf of their defiant president.

    Instead, they appear to have evaporated. Some 50,000 police thought to be loyal to Gbagbo have deserted, reports Agence France-Presse.

    In the capital, Yamoussoukro, which the rebels took with hardly a shot, they spun donuts in the city center in jeeps as civilians cheered. Hours later, they took San Pedro, the key port through which 40 percent of the world's cocoa flows.

    Rebels taking Gbagbo's hometown spent the night in his vacation villa.

    As of this writing, they even appeared to have begun taking Abidjan, once the "Jewel of Africa," and still the country's most important city.

    Gbagbo's army chief sought asylum in the South African embassy last night. And the leader of Gbagbo's youth militia, Charles Blé Goudé, has reportedly asked Angola for a visa.

    Gbagbo's remaining entourage, however, appears ready to dig in its heels. How hard his most loyal forces will fight could determine the scale of the humanitarian disaster already underway [....]


    UN slaps sanctions on Cote d'Ivoire's Gbagbo
    Security Council votes unanimously to impose a travel ban and assets freeze on incumbent leader Gbagbo.
    Al Jazeera, March 30 2011 11:55

    The UN Security Council has unanimously approved a resolution demanding an immediate end to the escalating violence in Cote d'Ivoire, as fighters supporting the nation's internationally recognised leader parade through the streets of the capital.

    Wednesday's council vote comes five days after France and Nigeria introduced a draft resolution expressing "grave concern" that Cote d'Ivoire could relapse into civil war.

    The resolution urges all Ivorian parties to respect the election of Alassane Ouattara as president. It condemns president Laurent Gbagbo's decision not to accept Ouattara's election and urged him "to immediately step aside".

    The resolution also slaps a travel ban and asset freeze on Gbagbo, his wife, and three key aides.

    Ouattara's military spokesman confirmed on Wednesday that his forces had entered the capital of Yamoussoukro but told The Associated Press news agency that pockets of resistance still existed.

    With the sounds of gunshots cracking over the telephone line, a woman at the downtown Hotel La Residence said rebel forces were doing a victory tour of the city, shooting into the air. Residents came out in the streets to welcome them, she said.  Still many believe a final bloody battle over the presidency is destined for the commercial capital of Abidjan.

    Guillaume Soro, Ouattara's prime minister, said on Wednesday that Gbagbo has "a few hours" to relinquish power peacefully and there is no room for any further negotiations....

    Residents Report Fighting Near Ivory Coast Presidential Palace
    VOA News, March 31, 2011


    Photo: Reuters: Smoke rises from the city center of Abidjan, Mar 31 201

    Residents in Ivory Coast's main city of Abidjan say heavy fighting has broken out near the presidential palace, as fighters opposed to incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo move through the city. [....]

    Pro-Ouattara forces seize Ivory Coast state television
    Agence France Presse, 01 April 2011 0934 hrs

    ABIDJAN: Forces loyal to internationally recognised Ivory Coast leader Alassane Ouattara seized control of the country's RTI state television, a spokesman for Ouattara's defence minister told AFP.  "We took RTI, the Republican Forces are at RTI", Captain Leon Kouakou Alla said, referring to the forces loyal to Ouattara.  Several residents contacted by AFP confirmed that the television station was no longer broadcasting. [...]

    UPDATE 1-French forces patrol in Abidjan - sources
    Reuters, March 31, 2011 6:51pm GMT

    (Adds French army response)

    ABIDJAN/PARIS, March 31 (Reuters) - French forces were patrolling in some parts of Ivory Coast's main city of Abidjan, three sources said on Thursday.

    One source said soldiers from the 1,000-strong French Licorne force in Ivory Coast had been deployed in Zone 4, in the south of the city.

    A Western military source said others were sent to rescue French nationals being attacked in the Deux Plateaux neighbourhood by youth supporters of Laurent Gbagbo [....]

    Hundreds Killed in Ivory Coast Town as Conflict Intensifies
    By Adam Nossiter, New York Times, April 2/3, 2011

    DAKAR, Senegal — As rebels swept across Ivory Coast in a rapid advance last week to oust the nation’s strongman, Laurent Gbagbo, hundreds of people were killed in a single town, the United Nations and aid groups said Saturday, in the worst episode of violence during the four-month political crisis that has plunged the country back into civil war.

    The exact number of dead was unclear. The United Nations said that 330 people had been killed, while aid organizations put the death toll as high as 1,000. It was also uncertain how many were civilians, and how many were combatants, but Caritas, a Catholic charity whose staff members visited the town, Duékoué, in western Ivory Coast, called it a “massacre.”


    Humanitarian workers did not say who was responsible. But the United Nations said that more than 100 had been killed by Mr. Gbagbo’s fighters, while about 200 had been killed by forces loyal to his rival, Alassane Ouattara, the man recognized by the United Nations, the African Union and other international bodies as the winner of the presidential election last year.

    Mr. Ouattara’s government issued a statement denying responsibility for atrocities in any part of the country, saying its forces had discovered mass graves in other towns that were the result of massacres by Mr. Gbagbo’s forces.

    But the killings could call into question how much control Mr. Ouattara has over his forces. If further investigation proved their involvement in civilian deaths, it could tarnish Mr. Ouattara’s reputation overseas, where he is perceived to hold the high moral ground in the standoff with Mr. Gbagbo.

    Throughout most of the crisis, civilian killings have come largely at the hands of Mr. Gbagbo’s forces, eliciting threats of criminal charges from international prosecutors. Human rights groups have also accused forces loyal to Mr. Ouattara of some extrajudicial killings, but neither side has been implicated in a single event close to this scale.

    Many of Mr. Ouattara’s fighters are former rebels from a 2002 uprising that divided the country in half, and they have come under his banner only recently. The rebels have a history of human rights abuses and had stayed mainly on the sidelines of the political crisis. The United Nations had previously estimated that a total of about 500 people had been killed in the crisis, over four months of tensions and sporadic violence.


    The conflict between Mr. Ouattara and Mr. Gbagbo has unleashed longstanding ethnic rivalries, particularly in the lawless western regions.


    United Nations peacekeepers are stationed at Duékoué, but it was unclear what knowledge, if any, their base might have had about the mass deaths.

    “They are protecting the Catholic mission” where thousands of civilians have taken refuge, said a United Nations spokesman, Hamadoun Touré. “They didn’t tell me anything. If they knew they would have told us,” he said. “In general when there is fighting, there are incidents. Sometimes, there are exaggerations.”


    UN evacuates all staff from Ivory Coast base, French take control of airport

    Around 200 employees were airlifted from the UN headquarters in Abidjan after the office came under sustained attack from pro-Gbagbo forces

    By David Smith in Johannesburg and agencies, The Guardian, 3 April 2011 17.15 BST

    Around 200 UN staff are evacuating their base in Ivory Coast after coming under sustained attacks from forces loyal to president Laurent Gbagbo.

    The employees were flown by helicopter from their headquarters in Abidjan to the city's airport, the Associated Press reported. Another helicopter will take them to the northern city of Bouake.

    The evacuation order is for all "essential employees." Nonessential employees were already evacuated several months ago. The UN has about 12,000 peacekeepers in the war-torn west African country.

    On Saturday, four UN soldiers were seriously wounded when pro-Gbagbo special forces fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a UN armoured personnel carrier.

    In Paris, the French defence ministry said French troops have taken over Abidjan's airport and that France plans to send an additional 300 soldiers to Ivory Coast.

    Gbagbo's state TV accused the French troops of preparing a genocide like that in Rwanda in 1994 in which more than 800,000 people were killed.

    A caption on state TV read: "[French president Nicolas] Sarkozy's men are preparing a Rwandan genocide in Ivory Coast. Ivorians, let us go out en masse and occupy the streets. Let us stay standing."....

    French forces take over Abidjan airport
    Al Jazeera, 03 Apr 2011 11:36 GMT

    French forces secure country's main airport as fighters amass in battle to control Cote d'Ivoire's commercial capital.

    French forces have taken over the airport in Abidjan as forces loyal to Cote d'Ivoire's presidential rivals continue to battle for control of the West African country's main city.

    Reporting the French intervention, state television urged the city's residents to mobilise and protect Laurent Gbagbo, the incumbent president. The channel also accused Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, of wanting to engage in genocide in the West African country.

    "Alert, alert... The French army is occupying since last night the airport of Felix Houphouet Boigny," the caption read over images of Gbagbo that were aired late on Saturday.

    "Seven cargo planes, transporting 100 tanks and more than 2,000 soldiers; elements of the airport squadron have been taken prisoner. Sarkozy's men are preparing a Rwandan genocide in Cote d'Ivoire. Ivorians, let us go out en masse and occupy the streets. Let us stay standing," it continued.....

    In pictures: The Battle of Abidjan,
    Al Jazeera Slideshow:


    Ivory Coast general rejoins Gbagbo forces, army says
    General Phillippe Mangou has left South African ambassador's residence, where he sought refuge last week
    By Selay Kouassi in Abidjan and David Smith in Johannesburg, Guardian.co.uk, 4 April 2011

    The top army general in Ivory Coast has rejoined government forces days after deserting, providing a rare boost to president Laurent Gbagbo, officials say.

    General Phillippe Mangou, his wife and five children left the South African ambassador's residence in Abidjan after fleeing there last week, South Africa's foreign affairs ministry confirmed.

    Mangou's departure had been seen as a blow to Gbagbo, who refuses to cede power to the internationally recognised president, Alassane Ouattara, more than four months after the election.

    The streets of Abidjan resemble a ghost town as the city's residents await a final battle for power. Thousands of troops backing Ouattara are massed at a toll booth some 20 miles from the centre of the commercial capital, which has been a fierce battleground over the past four days.

    Speaking on Sunday on the pro-Ouattara TCI television channel, Ouattara's prime minister, Guillaume Soro, said their side's strategy had been to encircle the city, harass Gbagbo's troops' positions and gather intelligence on their arsenal. "The situation is now ripe for a lightning offensive," he said....

    Ouattara ally calls for 'rapid offensive'
    French troops begin evacuating foreigners as Ouattara's prime minister calls for fresh assault against Gbagbo forces.
    Al Jazeera, 04 Apr 2011

    A leading ally of the internationally recognised president of Cote d'Ivoire, Alassane Ouattara, has called for a "rapid offensive" in the commercial capital, Abidjan, where pro-Ouattara fighters are battling forces loyal to the country's incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo.

    Guillaume Soro, Ouattara's prime minister, said that fighters sent into the centre of Abidjan had reported a "generalised panic" among Gbagbo's soldiers.

    "The situation is now ripe for a rapid offensive... " he told the TCI television station. "The operation will be rapid because we have discovered the exact number of operational tanks on the ground. Ivorians must trust in the Republican Forces [Ouattara's army]."

    Ouattara's forces have effectively cornered Gbagbo and his closest supporters after four days of fierce fighting....

    Situation in Cote d'Ivoire: Special Briefing
    U.S. Dept. of State, Johnnie Carsonm Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs
    Washington, DC, March 31, 2011

    {....] This week has seen some of the most intense fighting in Cote d’Ivoire since the political crisis began in late November. The United States calls on all parties to exercise restraint and to make the protection of civilians their highest priority. The people of the Cote d’Ivoire have already paid a very high price for democracy. We call upon both sides to ensure that civilians do not pay an even higher price in the future

    Those who choose not to heed this call will be held accountable for the atrocities and the human rights violations that they commit. The United Nations and the international community will investigate all alleged human rights violations. Those implicated in directing or carrying out these heinous acts will answer for their actions.

    The United States and the international community have invested in seeing a peaceful and democratic future for Cote d’Ivoire. On March 30, the United Nations Security Council passed a unanimous resolution reaffirming its support for President Alassane Ouattara and calling on the 11,000-strong UN peacekeeping mission in Cote d’Ivoire to step up its protection of Ivoirian citizens, take direct action against those indiscipline forces who have targeted civilians, and to seize heavy weapons. These measures are absolutely essential in preventing more violence. {....].

    Thank you. I’ll take some questions

    QUESTION: Yeah. This is maybe a little bit out of your remit, and quite frankly, I have to say I’m not optimistic on getting an answer. But what in your mind – the situation that you’ve described in Cote d’Ivoire sounds an awful lot like the situation in other places, or at least one other place, where the Administration has decided to intervene militarily. Can you explain why you don’t – you – don’t think that that kind of intervention is needed or desirable in Ivory Coast, given the fact that things are so dire on the ground?

    ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: The international community has intervened in the Ivory Coast, and that intervention is showing results. The other country that you’re thinking about is in the Maghreb. But let me just say that there are some 11,000 UN peacekeepers on the ground in the Ivory Coast. They are supplemented by French military units that are a part of that UN peacekeeping force.

    Secondly, the government – or the former government of Laurent Gbagbo does not have helicopter gunships, jet aviation, or tanks in the numbers that we have seen in the other country that you have mentioned, nor have we seen the tremendous loss of life or the exceedingly large number of people racing for the borders. This is not to say that there is not a humanitarian crisis in the Ivory Coast; there is. The reason why we are so concerned about the Ivory Coast today is that if there is, in fact, a full-scale civil war in that country, it will not only lead to large refugee flows out into Liberia and to neighboring states; it will also probably lead to growing instability in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and other countries that have been plagued by instability before.

    We’re concerned about this. We’re concerned about the hundred thousand Ivoirians that have already left and gone to Liberia. But there is a difference between the two countries that you speak of. The United Nations has been engaged, including in a new resolution just last night on this issue.

    QUESTION: Right, I got – but what – could you outline for us what the American component of the UN operation is in Ivory Coast, what the U.S. is contributing to that other than perhaps just money?

    ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: The United States contributes about 25 percent of the financial wherewithal to all international peacekeeping operations, and this is no exception. What we have contributed is a great deal of diplomacy, diplomacy at the highest levels of the U.S. Government.

    President Obama has been directly involved, Secretary Clinton has been directly involved, Deputy Secretary Jim Steinberg has been involved, I have been involved and our Ambassador in the region. We have worked closely with the United Nations, we’ve worked closely with the French, we’ve worked closely with Alassane Ouattara, and we have worked closely with the leaders of ECOWAS. Sometimes our political influence is as significant as what we put on the ground with respect to military might.


    UN helicopters fire on Gbagbo forces in Abidjan
    Four missiles reported to have been fired as UN seeks to stop weapons being used to hit Ivorian civilians.

    By Selay Kouassi in Abidjan, Ed Pilkington in New York and David Smith in Johannesburg
    Guardian.co.uk, Monday 4 April 2011 19.03 BST

    United Nations helicopters have launched attacks on president Laurent Gbagbo's forces in Ivory Coast according to reports.

    The helicopters fired four missiles at a pro-Gbagbo military camp in the main city of Abidjan, witnesses told Reuters.

    "We saw two UNOCI (U.N. mission in Ivory Coast) MI-24 helicopters fire missiles on the Akouedo military camp. There was a massive explosion and we can still see the smoke," one of the witnesses said.

    The camp is home to three battalions of the Ivorian army.

    Earlier, sources told the Guardian the UN was looking at the possibility of using helicopters to launch aerial attacks after its base was targeted and 11 of its peacekeepers shot....

    Ivory Coast eyewitness: 'We need food, but the streets are full of bodies'

    Selay Kouassi, a resident of Abidjan, describes the dangers of trying to fend off starvation as fighting continues in the capital

    Guardian.co.uk, Sunday 3 April 2011 20.14 BST

    Besieged Gbagbo 'in basement' of residence
    BBC News, 5 April 2011 Last updated at 07:25 ET

    Ivory Coast's defiant President Laurent Gbagbo is sheltering with his family in the basement of his surrounded Abidjan residence, a senior military source has told the BBC.

    Troops loyal to Mr Gbagbo's rival, UN-recognised President Alassane Ouattara, say they have surrounded the compound.


    The BBC's Andrew Harding has spoken to a senior military source on the western edge of Abidjan, where hundreds of pro-Ouattara troops are gathered.

    The source told our correspondent they had completely surrounded the presidential residence and that Mr Gbagbo and his family were in the bunker. The claim is unconfirmed.

    Mr Gbagbo's spokesman told AFP news agency the incumbent president had not reached the point of surrender.

    But Mr Ouattara's representative in Paris, Ali Coulibaly, told French media earlier that Mr Gbagbo was negotiating his exit


    West backs UN efforts in Ivory Coast, Moscow concerned
    Agence France Presse, April 5, 2011

    UN and French military actions against Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo on Tuesday won backing from Washington and Europe but raised concerns with other global and regional powers including Moscow.

    With Gbagbo hunkered down in a bunker at his home trying to negotiate an exit deal, US President Barack Obama urged Gbagbo to step down immediately and voiced strong support for the French and UN military efforts.

    Gbagbo, cornered by his rival Alassane Ouattara's forces which are backed by French and UN forces, on Monday saw his barracks and the presidential palace attacked by them.

    The UN mission in Ivory Coast UNOCI said it was acting on the basis of a UN Security Council resolution that allowed it to protect civilians, while France said the UN had requested its assistance.

    "To end this violence and prevent more bloodshed, former president Gbagbo must stand down immediately, and direct those who are fighting on his behalf to lay down their arms," Obama said in a statement.

    "I strongly support the role that United Nations peacekeepers are playing as they enforce their mandate to protect civilians, and I welcome the efforts of French forces who are supporting that mission," Obama said.

    European Union President Herman Van Rompuy had late Monday also backed the UN efforts, saying: "I welcome ongoing efforts of the UN mission in Cote d'Ivoire to protect the civilian population in line with the mandate given by the UN Security Council."

    Regional powerhouse Nigeria also supported the efforts, saying the United Nations should employ all necessary means to protect civilians from violence....

    Sarkozy's involvement:

    France's Sarkozy, Ouattara speak, French attacks ease,
    Reuters, Apr 5, 2011 10:15am GMT

    PARIS, April 5 (Reuters) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy spoke to Ivory Coast presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara on Tuesday after U.N. and French helicopters fired the previous evening at bases of troops loyal to incumbent Laurent Gbagbo.

    Sarkozy's office said he spoke to Ouattara twice on Tuesday morning to discuss the situation in Ivory Coast, where forces loyal to Ouattara have launched a major assault on the presidential palace, shaking Gbagbo's grip on power.

    French helicopters fired on heavy weapons camps and armoured vehicles in the former French colony late on Monday, an operation Sarkozy said he authorised in response to a U.N. request, but there were no French strikes so far on Tuesday.

    "There have not been new strikes by the Licorne force this morning," armed forces spokesman Thierry Burkhard told Reuters, referring to France's 1,650-strong Licorne, or "Unicorn" force which destroyed rocket-propelled grenade launchers and television transmitters with missiles.

    "Last night, heavy weapons were destroyed so the threat to civilians is lower today," he said, adding that the U.N. resolution still stood and France could be asked to support further action if more threats are identified. Burkhard said around 2,000 French nationals....

    How can you deny the nostalgia that drifts over one at the familiar rhythm of the rhumba of the colonizer and the colonized, as it subltly pervades the modern musical mashup...

    Related thoughts confession: when I saw the following picture at top of The Telegraph's Ivory Coast LIve Blog, I thought: we're going to see something influenced by it in the next Paris fashion shows:


    Will become a tutorial for future IR classes, an example of where diplomacy may be useless; he refused to even start talking until force was used:

    Ivory Coast Leader Swayed by Force as He Considers Exit
    By Adam Nositter and Scott Sayare, New York Times, April 6, 2011

    TAKORADI, Ghana — Holed up in a bunker under his residence, Ivory Coast‘s strongman, Laurent Gbagbo, clung to office on Wednesday as he negotiated a potential surrender, shorn of support among his generals while French and United Nations officials demanded his departure and opposition forces encircled him.
    “Everybody’s dropped him,” Alain Juppé, the French foreign minister, said in a radio interview in Paris, “his stubbornness is absurd.”

    “The only thing that remains for him is to negotiate the conditions of his departure,” Mr. Juppé said, hours after Mr. Gbagbo said in an interview with French television that he was still the legitimate ruler and wanted talks with his political adversaries.

    Adm. Édouard Guillaud, the chief of staff of the French armed forces, said that he expected Mr. Gbagbo to surrender within hours. “He has no other choice,” Admiral Guillaud said.

    “The negotiations began yesterday and continued through the night. Unfortunately, I do not see an outcome at the moment. Despite that, I think it is only a matter of hours,” he said in a broadcast interview on Wednesday.

    Mr. Gbagbo’s departure would end a four-month standoff that has underscored both the strengths and limits of international diplomacy. For months, Mr. Gbagbo has refused to step down after losing a presidential election last year, angrily defying global condemnation and hard-hitting sanctions as his nation spiraled back into civil war.

    In the end, it came down to force. The international stance, taken by African and Western countries alike, greatly weakened Mr. Gbagbo’s ability to govern. But his willingness even to discuss the terms of his exit came only after opposition forces swept across the country and France and the United Nations entered the fight, striking targets at his residence, his offices and two of his military bases in what they called an effort to protect civilians....

    Scratch that, maybe it will be a tutorial on dealing with alternate unviverses:

    Ivory Coast ex-president Laurent Gbagbo denies offer to surrender

    Forces of Alassane Outtara surround presidential palace in Abidjan but incumbent says he will only agree to peace talks

    By Selay Kouassi in Abidjan and David Smith in Johannesburg

    Guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 6 April 2011 08.55 BST

    I am reminded of the ironically titled Operation Nifty Package,re: Noriega/1989

    Interesting that R2P only is still their story and the French and the UN are sticking to it:

    Opposition Forces Move on Ivory Coast Strongman
    By Adam Nossiter and Alan Cowell, New York Times, April 6, 2011

    ....News reports, quoting Mr. Gbagbo’s representatives, said French forces had joined the assault, opening fire from helicopters and a nearby rooftop. The United Nations and France had attacked targets at his residence, his offices and two of his military bases on Monday, in what they called an effort to destroy his heavy weapons and protect the civilians who had been targeted by them.

    But French officials denied that either French or United Nations forces were involved in attacks on the presidential residence on Wednesday.

    “We’re not involved, and neither is Onuci,” said Bernard Valero, the French Foreign Ministry spokesman,  referring to the United Nations Mission in Ivory Coast. “It is Ouattara’s guys.”....

    ....Last Thursday, we started hearing that troops loyal to Alassane Ouattara....were coming. This city waited in an agonized calm. And then, at twilight, they passed under our windows. My son and I crept to a window and peeked through the curtains to watch them.

    Armed men walked by silently, their strides determined, followed by vehicles with their headlights off. It was like something from a movie. They were headed to Cocody, the wealthy suburb where the state television has its headquarters. Later, we heard shots. The assault on Gbagbo partisans was beginning.

    In my apartment building, my neighbors are on both sides of the political debate, yet harmony reigns. We know that we shouldn’t talk politics — we can be wise if we have to be.

    On Sunday, as president of the building’s board, I organized an emergency meeting....

    Continued @

    From the Windows of Abidjan,

    By Fatou Keïta, a novelist, for The New York Times Op-Ed Section, April 6, 2011.

    Agence France Presse 4 hours ago

    WASHINGTON — The United States on Saturday condemned renewed violence by Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo's forces, calling his attempt to negotiate "a ruse to regroup and rearm."

    "It is clear that Gbagbo's attempts at negotiation this week were nothing more than a ruse to regroup and rearm," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement.

    "Gbagbo's continued attempt to force a result that he could not obtain at the ballot box reveals his callous disregard for the welfare of the Ivoirian people, who will again suffer amid renewed heavy fighting in Abidjan," Toner said.

    Gbagbo's forces on Saturday attacked the headquarters of his rival, UN-recognized president Alassane Ouattara, in a major escalation of the battle for control of the country.

    A UN spokesman and witnesses told AFP the Golf Hotel in Abidjan, where Ouattara has been holed up since disputed November elections, came under attack from about 5:00 pm local time (1700 GMT).

    It was the first time since the start of the west African nation's political crisis that the hotel had come under direct attack.....

    Gbagbo's forces attack Ouattara's Ivory Coast base
    By Ange Aboa in Abidjan, Reuters, April 9, 2011 8:42am IST

    Forces loyal to Ivory Coast incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo stepped up a counter-attack on presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara on Saturday by firing on his hotel headquarters in Abidjan....

    Despite a fierce rebel onslaught, Gbagbo's soldiers have held onto swathes of the city, and are now growing bolder.

    A U.N. spokesman in Abidjan said the attack on the Golf Hotel, which Ouattara has made his base since the election, involved heavy weapons that appeared to have been fired from Gbagbo's heavily defended residence.

    "This was not a fight, but a direct attack by Gbagbo's forces, who fired RPGs and mortar rounds, from positions near Gbagbo's residence, at the Golf Hotel," said U.N. spokesman Hamadoun Toure.

    He said one U.N. peacekeeper had been hurt, and that U.N. forces had responded by firing on those positions....

    A Friendly Little Dictatorship in the Horn of Africa
    Why the world doesn't care about Djibouti's autocracy.
    By Aly Verjee, Foreignpolicy.com, April 8, 2011

    ....If the story ended there, Djibouti would be a sad if predictable tale of autocracy -- little different from Gabon, Syria, or Azerbaijan. With no natural resources to speak of, this microstate, more famous for its scuba diving than its diverse politics, is barely a footnote on the world agenda.

    But to the West, and particularly the United States and France, Djibouti matters. It matters a lot. As the forward operating base of U.S. Africa Command, Djibouti's Camp Lemonnier is a friendly piece of real estate in the Horn of Africa, which includes Eritrea, Somalia, and Yemen. Approximately 2,000 U.S. troops are based at Lemonnier, in addition to the naval forces that periodically call at the port of Djibouti. With the nearest friendly African port located in Mombasa, Kenya -- 1,700 miles away -- the United States, NATO, and the European Union have no alternative to using Djibouti's harbor as a sanctuary to conduct anti-piracy operations.

    Its unfettered cooperation on anti-piracy operations has endeared Djibouti to many other members of the international community. A score of countries -- including Japan, Germany, and Russia -- rely on the port of Djibouti to sustain their naval presence in East African waters. At the mouth of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, Djibouti is strategically located to protect some of the world's busiest shipping lanes....

    As the only U.S. military toehold on the continent, Djibouti is also a vital link in the war on terror...The CIA is rumored to maintain facilities in country:....

    And France has interests there, too: Its largest overseas military presence remains in this former colony....

    Nightmare in Abidjan
    A history in pictures of the Ivory Coast's crisis.

    By Elizabeth Dickinson, Foreignpolicy. com, April 7, 2011

    US Christian right flies the flag for Laurent Gbagbo
    Ivory Coast leader – a Christian – is the real election winner and not Muslim rival Alassane Ouattara, claim key evangelicals
    Ed Pilkington in New York,.  guardian.co.uk, 7 April 2011 18.34 BST

    In the US, several key evangelical leaders have been flying the flag for Gbagbo, claiming that he was the rightful victor of the November election and billing him as a Christian bulwark against the spread of Islam.

    Foremost among those is Oklahoma senator Jim Inhofe, an evangelical Christian with close links to the Gbagbo regime. He has been lobbying Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, arguing in a letter to her that "it is mathematically impossible for President Gbagbo to have lost the election by several hundred thousand votes."

    Other commentators have made much of the fact that Gbagbo and his wife, Simone, are evangelical Christians and that his rival, Alassane Ouattara, who won the internationally monitored election, is Muslim. On Fox News, Glenn Beck contrasted the "current Christian president" with the "Muslim" Ouattara, whom he said was responsible for all the recent killing.

    The televangelist Pat Robertson went further, calling Gbagbo a "very fine man". He described Ivory Coast as a "country run by a Christian that is going to be in the hands of a Muslim, so it's one more Muslim nation building up the ring of sharia law."

    Robertson's words chimed with those of the French far-right politician Jean-Marie Le Pen, who said that Ouattara's victory would put Ivory Coast "under Muslim influence". He accused France's president, Nicolas Sarkozy, of launching "an act of international piracy" against Gbagbo out of a desire for oil....

    Gbago captured:

    Former Leader of Ivory Coast Is Captured to End Standoff
    By Adam Nossiter, New York Times, April 11, 2011, 11:51am ET

    Laurent Gbagbo was captured on Monday after a weeklong siege of his residence and was placed under the control of his rival, Alassane Ouattara.

    The Lede: Video of Gbagbo’s Arrest on Ivorian TV

    Laurent Gbagbo detained by Ivory Coast opposition forces
    By David Smith in Abidjan, Kim Willsher in Paris, and Sam Jones, The Guardian, 11 April 2011 16.00 BST

    Detention by fighters loyal to Ouattara comes after more than 30 French armoured vehicles join advance on Abidjan residence

    In Belated Inauguration, Ivory Coast’s President Urges Unity
    By Adam Nossiter, New York Times, May 21/22, 2011

    DAKAR, Senegal — Alassane Ouattara was formally inaugurated Saturday as Ivory Coast’s president in a ceremony in the West African nation’s capital, Yamoussoukro, nearly six weeks after his predecessor was forcibly removed from office with the help of French and United Nations military strikes.

    Mr. Ouattara called for reconciliation and peace in a country that was once one of Africa’s richest but that has been devastated by years of unrest, political division and civil war.

    “The time has arrived for Ivorians to come together,” Mr. Ouattara, a former economist and banker, said in a speech that did not deviate from his habitually austere manner. “Dear brothers and sisters, let’s celebrate peace. Like the great people we are, we are going to reunite. Yes, we are going to come together. Let us learn to live together again.”

    The country is still reeling from a four-month armed standoff that killed as many as 3,000 people, according to officials and human rights groups, and that sent tens of thousands of refugees fleeing violence into neighboring lands. About 160,000 are still in exile in Liberia, according to the International Rescue Committee.

    Sanctions imposed by the European Union, the United States and regional governments had crippled the economy as President Laurent Gbagbo who decisively lost the presidential election in November, refused to give up office.

    Life is slowly returning to a semblance of normalcy. Banks have reopened, the nation’s vital cocoa exports have resumed and civil servants have returned to their desks with two months’ back pay.

    Mr. Ouattara must govern under the burden of multiple handicaps....


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