Gbagbo allies abandon reconciliation efforts

Backers of ex-Ivory Coast president abandon unity efforts after he is taken to the ICC for crimes against humanity.

    Backers of Ivory Coast's ex-president Laurent Gbagbo have announced that they are withdrawing from reconciliation efforts after he was transferred to a war crimes court in The Hague.

    The leaders of three small pro-Gbagbo parties said on Wednesday that they were pulling out of legislative elections scheduled to take place in December in protest of the transfer, which they argued would hamper national reconciliation.

    Guillaume Soro, the Ivorian prime minister, responded by accusing Gbagbo's Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) party of rejecting President Alassane Ouattara's "outstretched hand".

    "A decision to go after the defeated president alone at this point is likely to be explosive on the ground."

    - Francis Dako, ICC African coordinator

    Since his incarceration, Gbagbo "has taken no step to start dialogue with us", Soro said.

    "On the contrary, extremist words were used by advocates opposed to the normalisation" of the country.

    Earlier on Wednesday Gbagbo became the first former head of state to be handed over to the International Criminal Court (ICC), where he will appear on murder and rape charges next week.

    Gbagbo, 66, was taken into the court's custody after being flown to the Netherlands on a chartered flight - the first person to be brought to account for Ivory Coast's post-election violence that killed about 3,000 people.

    He had been under arrest since April, when troops loyal to Ouattara and backed by UN and French forces stormed his residence in Abidjan after he refused for five months to give up power following an election defeat.

    "Gbagbo allegedly bears individual criminal responsibility, as indirect co-perpetrator, for four counts of crimes against humanity, namely murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, persecution and other inhuman acts," the ICC said in a statement.

    The crimes were allegedly committed between December 16, 2010 and April 12, 2011.

    ‘Explosive’ situation

    ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo vowed on Wednesday that Gbagbo's transfer was "just the beginning".

    "This is the first case in the Cote d'Ivoire. It would not be the last case. This is just the beginning," Moreno-Ocampo said.

    "Ivorian victims will see justice for massive crimes," he added.

    Ouattara, meanwhile, said through a spokesman that the transfer was proof that "nobody is above the law".

    Soro added that Gbagbo had only himself and his former ruling FPI party's "absence of repentance and lack of humility" to blame.

    Gbagbo's supporters, however, rejected that claim.

    "What we are seeing today is the triumph of corruption, dirty dealing and shady connections to the detriment of the state," said Justin Kone Katina, Gbagbo's spokesman.

    He called Moreno-Ocampo a "scheming puppet ... who allows himself to be manipulated by interests that are far removed from any sense of justice".

    As both camps traded blame, global human rights groups have warned that any prosecution focused solely on Gbagbo and not those of his rival, Ouattara, could threaten national stability.

    Francis Dako, the African co-ordinator at the Coalition for the ICC, urged the court to prosecute both.

    "A decision to go after the defeated president alone at this point is likely to be explosive on the ground," he said.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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