Early this morning, former president of Côte D’Ivoire Laurent Gbagbo was finally forced out of power. Seeking refuge in the bunker of his Abidjan residence, opposition forces and international peacekeepers took the African strongman into custody.
Although there are conflicting reports as to who actually arrested Gbagbo, one thing is certain according to Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations: Gbagbo’s illegitimate claim to power is over.
Today marks the end of a four-month election crisis that has deepened the ethnic and religious divisions within Ivorian society and has wreaked havoc on the lives of Ivorians across the country. Last week the international community held its breath as defections from Gbagbo’s top security tier called for a cease-fire.
The U.N. interpreted these defections as an opportunity to begin negotiations with Gbagbo. Instead, Gbagbo bided his time while his forces nursed their wounds and prepared for another offensive. According to the U.S. State Department, these olive branches were disingenuous, and it became clear that Gbagbo’s attempts at negotiations “were nothing more than a ruse to regroup and rearm.” Gbagbo’s efforts quickly proved futile as French and U.N. forces launched a new wave of air strikes on Sunday and advanced on his residence this morning.
The United States has maintained a hands-off approach in this crisis, specifying that this crisis is an African issue and not one the United States will lead. The U.S. did however, join the international community in levying financial and travel sanctions against Gbagbo’s regime and provide funds for refugee assistance. The U.S. has also repeatedly condemned the mass violence and called for investigations of both Gbagbo’s armed supporters and those of his opponent, Alassane Ouattara.
Now that Gbagbo’s political misadventure is at an end, President Ouattara is tasked with putting the country back together. The United States must hold the new Ivorian administration accountable. Human rights abuses, such as those committed under Gbagbo’s regime, must not be tolerated, and democracy and rule of law must be respected. The international community has thrown its support behind President Ouattara; now he must rise to the occasion.