Gbagbo party leader calls for reconciliation

Head of Ivorian Popular Front calls for an end to "revenge killings" and looting, as gunfire rings out near Abidjan.

    The leader of the deposed Ivorian leader Laurent Gbagbo's political party has urged diehard fighters to lay down their arms and work towards national reconciliation, as shooting was reported from a suburb of the country's commercial capital, Abidjan.

    Pascal Affi N'Guessan, the leader of the Ivorian Popular Front (known by its French acronym FPI), read a declaration on Saturday saying that the "war has ended" after Gbagbo's arrest on Monday.

    He urged "an end to the death of our compatriots", adding that the citizens of Ivory Coast must "give a chance for the restoration of peace" and stop "revenge killings [and] looting".

    Gbagbo, who was president of the West African country since 2000, insisted that he had won the November 28 elections, but the international community recognised Alassane Ouattara, his rival, as the winner of those polls. After months of unrest, Gbagbo made a last stand at his presidential residence in Abidjan, and was finally arrested by troops loyal to Ouattara after United Nations and French troops bombed the compound.

    "The FPI is very devastated by the chaotic situation and presents its sympathies to the families of all those who have died," said Affi N'Guessan in his statement, which was broadcast on Ouattara's Ivorian Radio and Television (known by its French acronym RTI).

    "In the name of peace, let us end the war. Let us put an end to all forms of belligerence and confrontation," he said. "We must give our country the chance for restoration and reconstruction."

    Gbagbo location revealed

    The FPI leader was speaking after shooting had been reported on Saturday morning in Abidjan's Yopougon neighbourhood, on the outskirts of the country's commercial capital.

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    Pro-Gbagbo fighters have sought refuge in the area, and pro-Ouattara fighters have attempted to root them out, residents said.

    Affi N'Guessan was accompanied on RTI by Alcide Djedje, Gbagbo's former foreign minister, who told the Associated Press news agency that Gbagbo is under the protection of UN peacekeepers in the northern part of the town of Korhogo, a stronghold of Ouattara.

    Djedje said that the UN was providing protection to him, two other former ministers and several legislators in Abidjan.

    He said that Simone Gbagbo, the deposed leader's wife, remains in Abidjan.

    Ouattara's government, meanwhile, said that 68 people who had been arrested along with Gbagbo, including his family members and house staff, were freed on Saturday.

    Thirty members of Gbagbo's family were taken to "a destination we are keeping confidential", Jeannot Ahoussou, Ouattara's justice minister said in a televised statement.

    Djedje told AP that the family members had been taken to a Gbagbo residence in the seaside resort of Grand Bassam.

    Another 38 people who had been arrested, mainly domestic staff, were also released and have returned to their homes, he said.

    Meanwhile, state radio reported on Saturday that Desire Tagro, Gbagbo's interior minister, had died on Tuesday after being shot and badly beaten by pro-Ouattara fighters who had captured him.

    Gbagbo had earlier said that he had asked Tagro to signal his surrender on Monday by walking out with a white flag.

    Ouattara has said that he wants Gbagbo to face trial for his alleged crimes in both national courts and the International Criminal Court at The Hague, and Ahoussou, his justice minister, has said that he is drawing up a full list of ministers, generals and journalists to be charged with blood crimes, corruption and hate speech.

    The ICC has said that it is conducting a preliminary investigation into the crimes perpetrated by all sides in the conflict.

    Pro-Ouattara forces have been accused of widespread human rights abuses, including the rape and murder of Gbagbo supporters in the west of the country.

    Topping of the list of Gbagbo officials sought by pro-Ouattara forces is Charles Ble Goude, the deposed leader's "street general" who was also the youth minister in his government. Ble Goude was known for organising massive pro-Gbagbo rallies and inciting the pro-Gbagbo Young Patriots group to attack foreigners, UN peacekeepers and Ouattara's supporters.

    Toussaint Alain, a Gbagbo advisor in Paris, told the AFP news agency that Ble Goude was in "a secure location" and would not be arrested.

    Anne Ouloto, a spokeswoman for Ouattara, confirmed that they were "actively searching" for Ble Goude.

    Meanwhile, Bruno Dogbo Ble, the head of Gbagbo's Republican Guard, has been arrested, Ivorian media reported.

    Abidjan mostly calm

    Aside from Yopougon skirmishes, the rest of Abidjan has remained largely calm for Friday and Saturday, with some people venturing out of their homes for the first time in two weeks.


    Ouattara's forces have been clearing Abidjan
    of illegal weapons in a bid to restore order

    Residents of Yopougon, however, said that pro-Ouattara forces were conducting house-to-house searches for forces loyal to Gbagbo, who they would then shoot and kill.

    They also said that Ouattara's forces had fired into the air on Thursday to scare residents into fleeing, and then pillaged their homes.

    Thousands of people have been killed and wounded in weeks of fighting in Abidjan, according to the International Federation of the Red Cross.

    "There are too many bodies to count," one resident of the Ajame neighbourhood who was seen burning bodies and trash said.

    The Ouattara administration has so far struggled to get the country back on its feet. Civil servants have now been ordered to return to work on Monday, and classes are expected to resume at Ivorian schools on April 26.

    Ouattara has not received unanimous support from the international community, with neighbouring Gambia saying that it still supports Gbagbo and stands opposed to the foreign military intervention in Ivory Coast.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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