from Africa in Transition

Cote d’Ivoire: Curtains for Gbagbo? Maybe.

March 31, 2011

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Soldiers loyal to Laurent Gbagbo patrol a street in Abidjan March 31, 2011. (Luc Gnago/Courtesy Reuters)

I promised yesterday a post on Nigerian violence, but that has been preempted by developments in Cote d’Ivoire.

The occupation of the Ivorian capital of Yamassoukro by President Alassane Ouattara’s forces dealt a significant blow to Laurent Gbagbo and his illegal regime. Though Yamassoukro does not function as the Ivorian capital in any meaningful sense, it is important as a national symbol, and Ivorians are proud that one of the largest churches in the world, Notre-Dame de la Paix, is located there. Ouattara’s forces have also occupied some cities in the all-important cocoa producing belt.  There is press speculation that the battle for Abidjan, now Gbagbo’s stronghold, is about to begin.  The fighting may be bloody, unlike the uneventful occupation of Yamassoukro, where apparently Gbagbo’s forces melted away rather calmly.

The press reports that Ivorian soldiers are abandoning Gbagbo and that the Ouattara forces are enlisting them. If true, that would indicate that Gbagbo is having trouble paying the army and probably the civil service. The financial sanctions would appear to be biting, and more are on the way. On March 30, The United Nations Security Council imposed new restrictions on Laurent Gbagbo, his wife, and other supporters. As recently as a week ago, it looked like Gbagbo might be able to hold out indefinitely, but that calculation always assumed that he would be able to pay the army by circumventing the international sanctions.

I hope Gbagbo sees the writing on the wall and leaves the country, sparing Abidjan a possible bloodbath. But, he has defied the odds before, and he may think he can do so again.

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