And another one bites the dust. Laurent Gbagbo, who held out longer than Hosni Mubarak, longer than Ben Ali (but perhaps not longer than Gaddafi or Ali Abdullah Saleh – we shall see) was seized in his underground bunker under the presidential palace in Abidjan. Seized by who, exactly? Initial reports suggested that the French had finally lost patience and done the job themselves; subsequently all sides have been saying that only ‘Ivorian’ forces were involved, whatever that term means these days. After all, it was Gbagbo’s interpretation of the concept of ‘Ivoirite’ that kept Ouattara out of presidential elections for a decade, on the basis that he was not fully Ivorian. And both sides in this conflict have relied on forces that would fail even the most liberal definition of Ivorian – Liberian mercenaries, Angolan mercenaries, Nigerian mercenaries…and French mercenaries?
France seized the initiative in Cote D’Ivoire, as they did in Libya; one wonders how much this has to do with Nicolas Sarkozy’s record low popularity figures. One suspects everything. Nonetheless, even if it was only ‘Ivorian’ troops that broke down the door, the column of 30 French armoured vehicles in support certainly helped.
And now the world breathes a sigh of relief; Cote D’Ivoire, it appears, is sorted, and will disappear from the headlines. But the tensions and undercurrents which caused this civil war are not resolved, and Ouattara has a tough time on his hands to reconcile what was even before this a deeply divided country. Gbagbo is being kept in the Golf hotel, which is where Ouattara established his interim government, and where he has been holed up ever since the election. Apparently the room service is not bad.
In the meantime, there’s still Gaddafi to worry about. What Gbagbo’s capture does throw into relief is the international policy of not targeting the person of Gaddafi. Perhaps a targeted assassination of one man with blood on his hands is more just than the bombing of all his footsoldiers? Maybe it’s like lancing a boil?
VERDICT: Cote D’Ivoire goes forth, 134 days too late.