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Ivory Coast Conflict


Since a failed coup and subsequent insurgency in September 2002 split Cte d'Ivoire between a government-led south and rebel-controlled north, several peace agreements and election dates have come and gone. Gbagbo's minister of youth and employment had urged supporters to seize the Abidjan hotel where his opponent Ouattara set up his headquarters under UN protection. Charles Ble Goude said supporters would "liberate" the Golf Hotel on 1 January 2011.

Attempts by African Union mediators to find a political solution to the crisis continued into January 2011. Some members of ECOWAS maintained the the option to use force to compel Gbagbo to leave was still an option. Gbagbo continued to seek a recount of results from districts in the north of the country, where he accused his opponent Ouattara and rebel forces of various types of election fraud.

On 6 January 2011, Gbagbo ordered the expulsion of British and Canadian diplomats. The UK and Canada had recognized the government of Alassane Ouattara as the legitimate government. The diplomats remained in the country despite the order, with Ouattara saying that Gbagbo had no such authority as he was no longer the president of the country. On 7 June 2011, the US froze the assets of Gbagbo in a further attempt to compel him to leave power and accept the internationally recognized results of the December 2010 election.

On 11 January 2011, fighting erupted in the capital Abidjan. Sporadic violence continued for several days, with Gbagbo supports attacking UN peacekeepers. The UN later said it had "concrete evidence" that Gbagbo was actively inciting his supporters to attack his opponents and international forces. By 19 January 2011, the UN Security Council unanimously approve the dispatch of an additional 2,000 peacekeepers to the nation and warned that the possibility of genocide and related crimes were of grave concern. By 20 January 2011, over 200 people had been reported killed in clashes.

On 24 January 2011, Nigerian Foreign Minister Odein Ajumogobia said that "unequivocal international support" from the UN Security Council was required for an intervention in Cote d'Ivoire. The threat of such an intervention, which would have been conducted by ECOWAS, was labeled as a bluff by Gbagbo and his spokespersons. Ouattarra later said that he believed a targeted military action to remove Gbagbo was the best solution to the crisis, in which the violence was steadily mounting.

On 29 January 2011, the Africa Union named a Head of State panel to help negotiate a political settlement in the country. South African President Jacob Zuma was named as the lead negotiator. The Gbagbo camp immediately signaled that it would reject the panel determining that the election had been won by Ouattarra. Violence continued and by 3 February 2011, an estimated 18,000 persons had been determined to be internally displaced in Cote d'Ivoire due to clashes stemming from the disputed election. Shortages of food and clean drinking water in the capital and elsewhere threatened to turn the situation in a humanitarian crisis as well. By 26 February 2011, there were concerns that Cote d'Ivoire was heading toward a resumption of outright civil war. UN personnel continued to be the target of attacks from Gbagbo supporters as well.

On 28 February 2011, the UN accused Belarus of violating the UN arms embargo against Cote d'Ivoire in supplying attack helicopters to forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo. Belarus denied the accusations and on 2 March 2011, the UN admitted that the reports appeared to have been false and apologized officially to Belarus. By March 2011, the number of displaced persons in Cote d'Ivoire had reportedly reached 200,000, while the death toll had climbed to almost 400.

On 11 March 2011, Outtarra reported that the African Union had endorsed the election results and his victory. This was later confirmed. Fighting in the capital Abidjan subsequently spread into the Yopougon district, a Gbagbo stronghold. Gbagbo and his supporters remained defiant in the face of increasing UN and international sanctions and other pressure. In addition to targeting UN personnel, foreign journalists were also reported to have become targets by mid-March 2011. On 17 March 2011, forces loyal to Gbagbo shelled a market in Abidjan, killing at least 25 people. On 24 March 2011, the death toll in the post-election violence was set at almost 500 people.

On 3 April 2011, French troops secured the airport in Abidjan. Forces loyal to Gbagbo had seized the airport, but subsequently surrendered to UN peacekeepers. French forces used the airport to evacuate foreign nationals and to bring in another 300 troops to reinforce positions in the commercial capital. UN peacekeepers, primarily from the French contingent, subsequently engaged forces loyal to Gbagbo, authorized by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to neutralize heavy weapons being used to target civilians. By 5 April 2011, there were reports that pro-Gbagbo forces had signaled their intent to stop fighting and that Gbagbo might be close to accepting a peaceful exit. The talks subsequently stalled, leading to a seize of Gbagbo's compound.

On 11 April 2011, Laurent Gbagbo was reported to have been arrested at his home in Abidjan. Though French forces were involved in the seige of the compound, they denied participation in the raid. Forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara were said to have carried out the operation, though they later turned Gbagbo, his wife, and his son, over to UN forces.

Though Gbagbo said instructed his supporters to cease their resistance and accept the new administration, there were continued reports of fighting between rival groups. Senior army officials did pledge their support to the new administration in a ceremony on 13 April 2011. Reports of reprisals against Gbagbo supporters also appeared following his capture. The UN pledged to investigate both sides for potential crimes against humanity during the fighting and warned Ouattarra supports not to engage in reprisals.

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