Gbagbo on his way out? Ivory Coast violence dying down? Not so fast.
Renegade President Laurent Gbagbo is surrounded in his presidential bunker, but it would be a mistake, analysts say, to assume the end of his rule means the end of violence in Ivory Coast.
Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo – who sparked his country's second civil war in a decade when he refused to step down after losing the Nov. 28 elections – is expected to be yanked from his presidential bunker within a matter minutes, hours, or days.Skip to next paragraph
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Yet it would be a mistake, analysts say, to assume the end of Gbagbo's rule means the end of violence in Ivory Coast.
The nation's bitter divide runs much deeper than the personal feud between Gbagbo and President-elect Alassane Ouattara, the former prime minster who once jailed Gbagbo in the 1990s.
"It's going to be a matter of hours or one or two days for Gbagbo himself, but the post-Gbagbo violence could be potentially more drawn out," says analyst Anne Fruhauf at the London-based Eurasia Group consulting firm. "It could be sustained, it could be sporadic, it could come in waves, but it's obviously a very, very tense situation."
For the moment, the situation is cautiously optimistic.
Rebels are inching their way into Gbagbo's presidential residence. The president himself is desperately trying to negotiate safe passage to a nation beyond the reach of the International Criminal Court.
War-weary citizens of the country's main city, Abidjan, are braving the chaotic streets in quick dashes for food and medicine. The state TV station, now held by Ouattara's camp treated them to a movie last night: "Downfall," the historical reenactment of Adolf Hitler's final delusional days in a Berlin bunker.
If and when Gbagbo's bunker door opens and his renegade presidency crashes to an end, these are the factors that will determine the depth of peace in Ivory Coast.
1) What will the youth militias do?
In the run-up to his nation's second civil war since 2002, Gbagbo frantically recruited thousands of young men into armed youth militias like his Young Patriots, often in a single day.
Then there are the mercenaries. Human rights groups have long signaled fears about the use of Liberian guns-for-hire fighting in the country's west. Ivory Coast's most-violent west borders Liberia, and fighting there has been in many ways a repeat of the country's two civil wars, with familiar faces firing on one another.