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Ivory Coast generals pledge loyalty to Ouattara

By Marco Chown Oved,

ABIDJAN, IVORY COAST — Five generals pledged their loyalty to President Alassane Ouattara on Tuesday following the capture of the country’s strongman leader after a four-month standoff here, and French and Ivorian forces worked to eliminate the last pockets of resistance.

Ouattara’s spokesman, Patrick Achi, confirmed that the generals who had been fighting on Laurent Gbagbo’s side until his capture swore allegiance before Ouattara one by one at the Golf Hotel, where the internationally recognized electoral winner had set up his presidency after Gbagbo refused to acknowledge losing.

Doh Ouattara, a member of the security team at the hotel, said Gbagbo, his wife and their entourage were in a suite there. He said lower-level officials traveling with Gbagbo had been sealed in the bar of the luxury hotel.

U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said that “contrary to earlier information, Laurent Gbagbo remains at the Golf Hotel in Abidjan.” Earlier Tuesday, Haq had said that Gbagbo was not at the Golf and was at an undisclosed location outside Abidjan. It was not clear what led to the confusion.

More than 1 million civilians have fled their homes and untold numbers have been killed in the power struggle between the rivals since the election in late November.

Gbagbo’s security forces have been accused of using mortars and machine guns to mow down opponents during the standoff. Gbagbo could be forced to answer for his soldiers’ crimes, but some observers fear an international trial could stoke divisions that Ouattara will now have to heal as president.

Ouattara called for an Ivorian investigation into the former president, his wife and their entourage, cutting short speculation that Gbagbo would be delivered to the International Criminal Court at The Hague. Ouattara also called on his supporters to refrain from retaliatory violence and said he intended to establish a truth and reconciliation commission.

“Every measure has been taken to assure the physical integrity of Mr. Laurent Gbagbo, his wife and all those arrested,” he said. “They will receive dignified treatment, and their rights will be respected.”

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told France Info radio that his country “will certainly not take [Gbagbo] in. Let’s not complicate things.” Gbagbo had spent years in France before coming to power as Ivory Coast’s president in 2000.

The former colonizer also said Tuesday that it would scale back its military force in Ivory Coast and give $580 million in aid to restore public services and boost the country’s economy.

— Associated Press

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