Gbagbo Army Ordered Back to Work behind New PresidentPublished on Wednesday 13th April 2011
Soldiers who backed Ivory Coast's former president are being ordered back to work Wednesday, behind the country's new leader, as part of an effort to restore security after more than four months of political violence. Former President Laurent Gbagbo's army chief of staff, General Philippe Mangou, is ordering soldiers to report for duty behind the new government of Alassane Ouattara.Mangou says there has been an important change in the leadership of the country, so the armed forces must now swear allegiance to their new leader. He says President Ouattara has ordered them to help secure Abidjan and the interior of the country.Securing Abidjan means rounding up members of Gbagbo's militant youth wing, who Mangou just weeks ago helped rally to the former president's defense. Gbagbo is now under house arrest, after he was captured by Ouattara forces in an underground bunker at the presidential compound.Gbagbo has called on his supporters to lay down their weapons. But there is still sporadic fighting in Abidjan, as snipers control parts of the downtown Plateau district. Mangou says the new Ouattara-led national army will move quickly to restore order.To take control of the city, Mangou says soldiers need to stop the chaos. He is calling on all those who are armed and who have no right to be armed to put down their weapons. Mangou says, if soldiers catch anyone with weapons, that person will be considered a criminal and will be brought to trial.President Ouattara has made re-establishing security in Abidjan his top priority. Many people have not been able to leave their homes in nearly two weeks. Reopening banks, restarting the refinery and resuming cocoa exports through the port cannot happen in a war zone.To restore law and order, President Ouattara needs both the loyalty of the former Gbagbo army and discipline from his own troops. Reprisal attacks by those fighters would not only taint the new government but could inspire further armed resistance by Gbagbo loyalists.Amnesty International Deputy Director for Africa Véronique Aubert says only justice and protection can bring an end to the climate of fear in Ivory Coast. She is calling on President Ouattara to give strong instructions to all his forces to prevent human rights abuses.