Alassane Ouattara calls for peace in Ivory Coast after the capture of his presidential rival, Gbagbo, on Monday. But he faces a huge challenge uniting a country torn by civil war.
Ouattara’s supporters celebrated in the streets after the UN confirmed the surrender and capture of former President Gbagbo on Monday.
Laurent Gbagbo is widely considered to have lost the election in November last year after 10 years in power, but his refusal to stand down to make way for the winner, Alassane Ouattara, sparked four months of bloody conflict in Ivory Coast.
He was arrested on Monday after French forces and Ouattara troops surrounded the bunker he had been sheltering in for the past week, and he is now under UN protection.
Our country has turned a painful page in its history. Alassane Ouattara
There are hopes Gbagbo’s capture marks the end of this violent chapter for Ivory Coast – but many feel that the split in the country is too wide for calm to prevail.
In a speech late on Monday, Ouattara called for a “new era of hope”.
“I call on my fellow countrymen to abstain from all forms of reprisal and violence. Our country has turned a painful page in its history,” he said, promising to restore security to the battered nation, the world’s top cocoa grower.
He also pledged that Gbagbo, his wife and aides would all face justice.
Read more in the Channel 4 News Special Report on the Ivory Coast conflict
The conflict has been marked by reports of ethnic violence and massacres, particularly in the west of the country.
Aid groups suggest that both Ouattara and Gbagbo troops committed atrocities against civilians. Channel 4 News heard of “horrendous cruelty” as the UN uncovered 118 bodies in various locations.
In his speech on Monday, Ouattara promised a South Africa-esque Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate the human rights abuses.
The incumbent President also faces a more immediate challenge in Abidjan, where days of fighting, dwindling supplies of food and medicine, and power cuts have raised fears of a growing humanitarian crisis. Up to one million people across the country have also fled their homes in fear of the escalating violence.
Ouattara called for calm and asked for help from his police and gendarmerie, as well as UN and French troops, to restore security. But it remains unclear whether Gbagbo loyalists will give up the fight following his capture – or whether the 46 per cent of people in Ivory Coast who voted for Gbagbo will accept his defeat.
Alex Vines, who chaired a UN inspection team and lived in Ivory Coast 2005-2008, told Channel 4 News unification of a country that has been divided for over a decade, and fell into civil war in 2002-2003, will now be Ouattara’s key task.
“His task is to reconcile the country, bring it together, and that will need both reconciliation but also opening up the process of justice too, looking at allegations of human rights abuses including by his own forces such as those that happened a few weeks ago in the west of Ivory Coast,” he said.