Ivory Coast's Gbagbo may be considering surrender
Overnight attacks by the UN and France on the residence of renegade president Gbagbo have empowered the forces of elected President Ouattara and reportedly brought Gbago to the brink of surrendering.
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Though the BBC correspondent near the besieged Ivory Coast city Abidjan says today looks like an “endgame” for Gbagbo, he adds that “the fighting has reached a new level of ferocity and there are reports pro-Gbagbo forces have seized two bridges in the city, which would suggest the battle is not all one way.”Skip to next paragraph
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The thousands-strong Ouattara forces were confident before the siege as they climbed into machine gun-mounted vehicles on the way to Abidjan and spoke with a Reuters reporter. “We know when it starts, but it could take 48 hours to properly clean the city of Abidjan,” predicted the commanding officer of Ouattara's forces, Issiaka "Wattao" Ouattara.
As The Christian Science Monitor reported, France has backed Ouattara over Gbagbo since the November election.
France's position in one of its most supportive former colonies has changed over time. It played peacekeeper in 2003 during the country's civil war, but turned on Gbagbo when his forces shot nine French peacekeepers in 2004. Then-Prime Minister Jacques Chirac wiped out the Ivory Coast Air Force with strikes.
Gbagbo's "Ivoirite" program, which framed Christian Ivorians in the south as the only "true Ivorians," drove a further wedge between Gbagbo and France because France had concerns about "Gbagbo's religio-ethnic mission," the Monitor reported. That split was on display this weekend.
But under the presidency of strongman Laurent Gbagbo, relations deteriorated to the point that yesterday, as French troops took the city’s airport to ensure safe departure of foreign nationals, Mr. Gbagbo finally played the “ugly colonialist” card.
French troops were planning a “Rwanda-style genocide” in Ivory Coast, state TV repeatedly stated on Sunday.
This horrified some 12,000 French nationals, a number down from 40,000 a few years ago. The French embassy Sunday night was attacked by “patriotic youth,” according to Radio France International. And in Paris, Gbagbo envoy Alain Toussaint declared, "It is the French Army, which has put itself in the service of the rebellion … the French Army has become an auxiliary force of the rebellion.”
As of early Monday, Gbagbo had reversed his hard-line position, saying via state TV that his forces will “ensure the security of the French,” in spite of “France’s maneuvers intended to bring death in Ivory Coast.”