Ivory Coast – Mumuni: Gbagbo’s capture a welcome relief at a high cost

By Own Correspondent with Support from Joy News – Ivory Coast’s incumbent leader has been captured by French troops and fighters backing the country’s internationally recognized president.

Alhaji Muhammad Mumuni

Alhaji Muhammad Mumuni

According to French military officials in Abidjan say incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo was captured at the presidential compound in the Cocody neighborhood after helicopter gunships attacked the residence Monday morning.

The French ambassador here says Mr. Gbagbo was captured by fighters backing internationally-recognized president Alassane Ouattara. Those troops were backed by French special forces who used tanks to advance on the compound, where Mr. Gbagbo was holding out in an underground complex, refusing to recognize that he lost November’s presidential vote.

Mr. Gbagbo’s capture ends the four-month political standoff between the presidential rivals. But Mr. Ouattara must still reconcile Gbagbo supporters who say their leader’s fall was engineered by the international community and does not reflect the will of the Ivorian people.

U.N. and French attack helicopters Sunday fired on heavy weapons at the presidential compound, in what U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says was an assault to enforce the mission’s Security Council mandate to protect civilians and U.N. peacekeepers. The secretary-general says Gbagbo forces were using heavy artillery and mortars to attack the U.N. base in Abidjan as well as Mr. Ouattara’s headquarters.

Mr. Gbagbo said he was re-elected when the constitutional council annulled as fraudulent nearly ten percent of ballots cast in his run-off election with Mr. Ouattara. Electoral commission results certified by the U.N. say Mr. Ouattara won.

The government of Ghana has described the capture of the Ivorian beleaguered president Laurent Gbagbo as a “welcome relief” but maintains the slaughtering of human beings was avoidable.

Foreign Minister Mohammed Mumuni speaking to one of Ghana’s leading local radio station said the capture of Laurent Gbagbo should mark an end to the bloodletting and the long suffering of many Ivorians.

Gbagbo was smoked out of his bunker in the presidential palace on Monday and handed over to the rebel forces. He is now in the custody of the UN backed President Alassane Ouattara at the Gulf Hotel. After months of belligerence by Gbagbo and weeks of shelling, killing and armed conflicts by government forces loyal to Gbagbo and rebel forces loyal to Ouattara. Over 800 people are believed to have died from the battle with an estimated million more fleeing the country as refugees.

Mohammed Mumuni said Gbagbo’s capture should be good signal for his loyal forces to know the end is nigh. Asked if the arrest of Laurent Gbagbo vindicated the ECOWAS position on the use of military force – a position the Ghana government objected to – Mohammed Mumuni maintains diplomacy should still have been the option.

He said the needless loss of human lives and the unfortunate refugee situation created as a result of the conflict would have been avoided if diplomacy had been explored to the letter.

He said the capture came at a higher cost to human life which could have been avoided.Alhaji Mumuni however cautioned Alassane Ouattara to handle his adversary with dignity and respect.

He said given the results of the disputed elections, Laurent Gbagbo still has a groundswell of support and must be treated with care to ensure national stability and cohesion.

He pledged Ghana’s continued support to restore Ivory Coast back to stability. Meanwhile, the President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said on Joy News the sub region has been assured of Gbagbo’s right to self dignity and respect.

James Victor Gbeho maintained Ouattara has guaranteed Gbagbo’s protection, insisting, ECOWAS is convinced the ousted ‘hang-on’ president will be treated well.

It is not clear what action will be taken against Laurent Gbagbo. Mr. Gbeho however explained the ECOWAS cannot be blamed for the bit part role it played in the Ivorian crisis because it lacked the military accoutrement used by the French Forces in the capture of Gbagbo.

Credit: Joy News