Chilling accounts of how Gbagbo was captured

2011-04-18
THE SUN Newspaper- Maurice Archibong

After four months of political logjam, the nightmare appears to be over for crisis-torn Cote d’Ivoire. This followed the disgraceful capture of renegade president, Laurent Gbagbo, on Monday April 11.

Like a rabbit smoked out of its hole, Gbagbo, who had held power in that French-speaking West African country since 2000 and had stubbornly refused to admit defeat in the November 2010 presidential election to his main challenger, Alassane Quattara, was captured in a bunker at his residence in Abidjan.

His wife, Simone, and son, Michel, watched helplessly as Gbagbo was arrested in his underwear like a common criminal by troops loyal to Quattara, backed by French and United Nations troops.
Since the presidential poll which Quattara was widely believed to have won, Gbagbo had defied all entreaties from the international community to hand over the reins of power to Quattara. In a style typical of African dictators, Gbagbo contrived everything within his fading power to defiantly stay in power. He induced the constitutional court to declare him the winner of the presidential election.

Cote d’Ivoire has since then been split down the middle along ethnic lines, with another civil war looming before his capture. The country was only reunited in 2007 following a tortuous peace deal. This was after a one-year civil war in which the country was divided into a rebel-controlled North controlled by Quattara and a royalist South led by Gbagbo. The disputed presidential election last year was intended to reunify the fractious country. But, it seems to have yielded the direct opposite.

The capture of Gbagbo is more than a welcome relief, not only to the traumatized citizens of Cote d’Ivoire but the world at large. More than anything else, the people of Cote d’Ivoire deserve peace which Gbagbo has denied them because he wanted to cling to power at all costs, ostensibly to avoid prosecution for offences committed while in power. Thousands of lives have been lost as a result of the political logjam that followed the contentious presidential election. This would have been needless if Gbagbo had admitted defeat and honourably bowed out of office.

The arrest of Gbagbo is a lesson to the remaining dictators in Africa and elsewhere around the world. Specifically, there still exists in some African countries, the culture of self-perpetuation in power. Muammar Ghadaffi of Libya is an ugly example of this malaise. He is one ruler who refuses to know when to say goodbye. The wind of change is blowing for democracy. From Tunisia to Egypt, and now, Cote d’Ivoire, the message is that any dictator who stands in the way of democratic change may be blown away.

Gbagbo is already out. Ghadaffi is not likely to escape the wrath of this wind. Unfortunately, the African Union (AU) has once again proved incapable of persuading one of its own to concede defeat.
However, we urge the new president, Alassane Quattara to unify his people and govern with all sense of humanity, with fairness towards all, and no bitterness towards any ethnic group, even those that fought against him. Unifying Cote d’Ivoire requires remarkable leadership ability, vision, and a high sense of equity and justice.

Gladly, Quattara has promised a fair trial for Gbagbo. We urge him to keep his word. There is no need to fight anymore. Now is the time for hard work on Cote d’Ivoire to begin, and it should start in earnest. Let the reconciliation and rebuilding start now. This is the challenge President Quattara must face head-on. There should be no room for excuses.




 

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