Reuters is reporting that, after months of struggle, Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo has surrendered to the UN mission in Abidjan, and he has asked for their protection. However, that has not been confirmed by other news organizations.
In the past 24 hours, UN and French helicopters struck the Presidential residence as well as two military camps which contained the heavy arsenal for Gbagbo’s army. Forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara took advantage of the airstrikes to assault Abidjan, taking control of the residence. Gbagbo has been locked in an underground bunker, surrounded by pro-Ouattara troops.
Throughout the day, Gbagbo has been negotiating his surrender, focused mainly on self-protection from the Ouattara forces, provided by the United Nations. Gbagbo wants protection for his relatives and closest advisers as well. The French government has been the go-between for these talks.
The special representative for the UN secretary-general for Ivory Coast said that all of Gbagbo’s generals have deserted him and fighting has ended in Abidjan. Gbagbo’s soldiers earlier asked for a cease-fire.
Most likely Gbagbo is merely working out the terms of the surrender. But the future is uncertain. Ouattara’s forces were not able to gain control of the country until UN and French warplanes started bombing the Presidential residence. What does that mean for Ouattara’s debt to France? Will he still have a mandate for political activity, or will the Gbagbo loyalists, who were as recently as yesterday shelling civilians with RPGs and mortars, still seek to escalate conflict? Is this a transition or a coup? And will Ouattara’s forces take advantage of their dominion over Ivory Coast, as they may have done in the massacre in Duékoué?
All of this is unknown. And Ivory Coast faces an uncertain future to rebuild and heal from this civil conflict. Hopefully the worst of the violence is behind them, with a full-on genocide avoided.