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The Martyr (Denied): Gbagbo's Last Stance

Author: Jendayi Frazer, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Africa Studies
April 8, 2011


Former president Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory Coast has lost political power and now seeks the power of martyrdom. Skillful diplomacy, backed by military muscle, is required to deny his death wish intended to destroy president Alassane Ouattara's chances to govern, and Ivory Coast's prospects for peace. How can the end game for Gbagbo be shaped to offer a brighter future for all Ivorians?

The diplomacy following Ouattara's November 2010 election victory and Gbagbo's refusal to relinquish power was textbook. Gbagbo was first offered incentives to do the right thing, and then isolated via a travel ban and suspension from regional and international fora for continued intransigence. Several envoys from West Africa and the African Union tried negotiations to resolve the impasse but met with failure. Pressure escalated to deny him an economic lifeline with the freezing of the assets of Gbagbo, his family, and entourage both bilaterally and eventually multilaterally under the United Nations Security Council Resolution of 1975. The same resolution authorized the United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI) to use force to protect civilians as originally mandated in 2004 under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1528. Finally force—UNOCI backed by French forces as well as forces loyal to Ouattara—was necessary to shake Gbagbo's grip on power.

Now that Gbagbo is dug into the presidential residence refusing to leave, what next?

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