ABIDJAN, April 12, 2011 (AFP) - Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara urged his troops not to carry out reprisals on his captured rival Laurent Gbagbo's supporters, as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned against new bloodshed.
"I ask you to remain calm and show restraint," Ouattara, the 69-year-old elected leader of the west African nation, said in a televised address late Monday, while hailing "the dawn of a new era of hope".
He also announced "legal proceedings against Laurent Gbagbo, his wife and his allies", adding that "all measures are being taken" to protect them following their dramatic capture on Monday after a four-month crisis.
|AFP - Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara (L) shakes hands with General Kassarate, Senior commander of Ivorian gandarmerie on April 11, 2011 at golf hotel in Abidjan.|
Gbagbo, 65, who had held power since 2000 and stubbornly refused to admit defeat in November's presidential election, also called for a laying down of arms in televised comments shortly after his capture.
Gbagbo was detained and taken to his rival's temporary hotel headquarters with his wife Simone and son Michel, where they are being guarded by UN police amid fears of reprisals or summary justice.
Ouattara television channel showed Gbagbo inside a room in the Golf Hotel along with several senior aides, wearing a vest, wiping himself down with a towel and then changing shirts. He appeared tired but otherwise unharmed.
A fighter who witnessed his capture said Gbagbo had put up no resistance when finally confronted by one of the commanders of the pro-Ouattara forces.
"When he found himself face to face with Gbagbo, in front of his desk, the first thing Gbagbo said was 'Don't kill me!'," said the witness, speaking on condition of anonymity.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon welcomed Ouattara's promise to set up a truth and reconciliation commission to look into accusations of massacres and other crimes made against both sides in the Ivory Coast conflict.
Ban spoke to Ouattara hours after Gbagbo's capture, stressing his expectation that "with Mr Gbagbo now in the hands of the president's forces any further bloodshed will be avoided," UN spokesman Martin Nesirsky said.
Ban reaffirmed that "those responsible for human rights abuses, regardless of their affiliation, must be held accountable."
Ivory Coast now has an "historic opportunity" and must foster national reconciliation, establish a national unity government, ensure accountability for human rights violations and re-establish state authority, Ban said.
The UN, which has more than 9,000 troops and police in Ivory Coast, will keep up its mission helping to restore law and order and Ban offered help countering a "critical" humanitarian emergency after the conflict.
The UN has said that at least 800 people have been confirmed killed in the conflict between the rival camps following the November election.
US President Barack Obama welcomed the "decisive turn" of events in Ivory Coast and the end of Gbagbo's "illegitimate claim to power".
"For President Ouattara and the people of Cote d'Ivoire, the hard work of reconciliation and rebuilding must begin now," Obama said.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, whose country has been at pains to deny it is playing a neocolonial role in its former dominion, said on Tuesday that Gbagbo's capture was good news for African democracy.
Gbagbo's fall is "good news first of all for Ivorian men and women themselves because they will exit the spiral of civil war," Juppe told France Info radio on Tuesday.
"It's also good news for democracy because it means that in the 10 or so African countries that will hold elections in coming months, one can be sure that the democratic election results will be respected," he said.
Troops from France and from the UN peacekeeping force had been pounding Gbagbo's forces since Sunday in a bid to destroy the heavy weapons they were reportedly using against civilians.
France said its military had taken part in the weekend raids at the UN chief's request, and firmly denied reports its special forces had entered the Gbagbo compound or taken a direct role in his arrest.
The International Criminal Court's prosecutor has launched a preliminary investigation into the violence in Ivory Coast.
Both sides have been accused of massacres during the stand-off and ensuing conflict, with mass graves reportedly found near Abidjan and hundreds killed or raped in the western town of Duekoue.