Ivory Coast: Bloody Peace


May 6, 2011: Over a thousand people have died in three months of violence. But the new army, FRCI (Republican Forces of the Ivory Coast) has suppressed most of the individuals and groups that are still armed and dangerous. This is especially true in Abidjan, the largest city in the country and home of a third of the 15 million population. The city is also largely pro-Gbagbo (who did receive 46 percent of the vote in last year's election). Thus Ouattarr has had to make friends of many pro-Gbagbo people and groups. Most of the Gbagbo era military high command have come over to Ouattarr's side, and been accepted. Gbagbo justified being president-for-life by convincing most southerners that the northerners were foreigners (many were, or were the children of those who had come to work in the booming cocoa plantations). But cocoa is the basis of the country's prosperity, and the northern migrants did work that not enough southerners wanted to do.

May 5, 2011: In Abidjan, the last rebel (pro-Gbagbo) stronghold, a naval base in the port area, was captured. There are still pro-Gbagbo gunmen in Abidjan, but they no longer have a base to operate from. The most dangerous of these rebels are Liberian mercenaries, who roam from neighborhood to neighborhood, seeking a safe way out of the city and back to Liberia. With no base, the pro-Gbagbo forces can no longer disrupt life in the city, and traffic is back, as is commercial activity. This has been happening for weeks, neighborhood-by-neighborhood, but now seems to include the entire city.

Switzerland has frozen $81.45 million in bank accounts that appear to belong to former president Gbagbo, and were probably stolen.

The country's highest court, the constitutional council (and its several pro-Gbagbo members), proclaimed Alassane Ouattarr the president.

May 4, 2011: Troops captured the business district from pro-Gbagbo forces, dispersing or killing the rebel fighters.

May 1, 2011: Former president Laurent Gbagbo has accepted his defeat and is now willing to call on his followers to surrender, which he later did on TV.

April 30, 2011: Most pro-Gbagbo armed groups have agreed to surrender their weapons and stop fighting, in return for security and amnesty.

April 27, 2011: Ibrahim Coulibaly, the leader of a pro-Ouattarr militia, killed himself rather than surrender his force to government troops that surrounded him in his Abidjan stronghold. The government ordered all militias to disarm, but only some of the members were allowed to join the army. Coulibaly, who controlled several thousand armed men at the end,  has been a warlord and rebel, often against former allies, since the late 1990s. Ouattarr insisted that Coulibaly disarm, and Coulibaly preferred death instead. Coulibaly and his followers were the most dangerous, and unruly, of six militias that joined forces with Ouattarr to overthrow former president Laurent Gbagbo. Not everyone had the same idea of what would happen after Gbagbo was out of power. Coulibaly, for example, was a longtime rival of the new defense minister Guillaume Soro, and demanded that Ouattarr find someone else run the defense ministry.

April 20, 2011: Fighting broke out in Abidjan between the FRCI and pro- Ouattarr militias that refused orders to disarm. There are still hundreds of armed pro-Gbagbo gunmen running around the city.

April 17, 2011:  The U.S. State Department has warned Americans going to Ivory Coast to pay very close attention to their personal safety, because of the large number of guys with guns still running around.

April 14, 2011: The pro-Ouattarr Republican Forces have been renamed the Republican Forces of the Ivory Coast (FRCI). The first task of FRCI is to restore order in the south, particularly Abidjan, and disarm remaining Gbagbo loyalists, and most of the anti-Gbagbo militias that had joined the pro-Ouattarr forces in the last few months. This won't be easy, but it has been helped by most army units switching sides, along with their commanders.  



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