Cote d’Ivoire’s Laurent Gbagbo was arrested this morning, and is being held by president-elect Alassane Ouattara’s forces in Abidjan, the UN is reporting.
The incumbent-president has been in a violent standoff with Ouattara since refusing to step down after the country’s elections last November.
It was initially reported that Gbagbo was seized by French special forces, however, it is now being said that he surrendered to troops loyal to Ouattara, after a week long siege by French forces and the UN.
As Michelle Chen outlined in a Colorlines column last Friday, post-election violence has engulfed the Ivory Coast, resulting in hundreds of deaths and up to one million people displaced, the UN Refugee agency estimated. While Ouattara has been internationally recognized as the legitimate winner of the country’s 2010 elections, Gbagbo claims that polls were rigged and that Cote d’Ivoire’s former colonial ruler France is trying to oust him. The UN Security Council issued sanctions, travel bans, and asset freezes in an attempt to enforce the election result. By the end of March, Ouattara’s forces began an offensive from the north towards the country’s seat of power in Abidjan. Yesterday, French and UN helicopters fired missiles at Gbagbo strongholds and French tanks were seen advancing on his residence.
Both Gbagbo and Ouattara’s forces have been accused of targeted massacres and politically motivated rape by refugees and human rights groups since the conflict began. Cote d’Ivoire’s ambassador to the UN, Youssoufo Bamba, said that Gbabgo would stand trial in an international court.