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The power struggle is over for now: Soldiers of the internationally recognised Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara arrested his rival Laurent Gbagbo in Abidjan on Monday.

After more than four months of power struggle in Côte d’Ivoire, soldiers of the internationally renowned President Alassane Ouattara arrested his rival Laurent Gbagbo in Abidjan on Monday. Gbagbo and his wife Simone were taken to the “Hotel du Golf”, Ouattara’s headquarters, according to the French ambassador Simon and a spokeswoman Ouattaras. Eyewitnesses confirmed this.

In Paris, reports were denied that French special forces had been involved in the storm on the president’s residence, where Gbagbo had been entrenched for days. The special adviser to President Sarkozy, Henri Guaino, said on French television France 2 that it was not France’s task to “expel Gbagbo by military means”. Rather, France “wanted to prevent a bloodbath in Abidjan”. “France is fulfilling its duty to protect the civilian population of Abidjan,” Guaino said.

On Sunday evening, French soldiers, together with blue helmet soldiers of the UN mission in Côte d’Ivoire, Onuci, once again fired rockets at the Gbagbos residence and several barracks controlled by his loyal soldiers. The attack was carried out by direct order of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

In an interview with the newspaper “Le Parisien”, Ambassador Simon, who has been in post in Abidjan since July 2009, said that Gbagbo’s supporters still had “a high potential for disruption”. France had only acted within the UN mandate and respected the sovereignty of Côte d’Ivoire. Special adviser to President Sarkozy, Henri Guaino, said on French television France 2 that it was not France’s task to “expel Gbagbo by military means”. Rather, France “wanted to prevent a bloodbath in Abidjan”. “France is fulfilling its duty to protect the civilian population of Abidjan,” Guaino said. The Socialist Party (PS) demanded for the first time on Monday to be better informed about the mission of the French army (“Operation Unicorn”) in Côte d’Ivoire.

So far, Foreign Minister Juppé and Defence Minister Longuet have only answered questions before the Foreign Affairs Committee. There was no parliamentary debate. The socialist party spokesman Benoit Hamon demanded that the public be informed about the mandate of the French soldiers. The unicorn force has been increased to 1500 men. Since September 2002, the French armed forces have been deployed under UN mandate in Côte d’Ivoire.

Another attack on Gbagbo’s residence

On Sunday evening, French soldiers together with blue helmet soldiers of the UN mission in Côte d’Ivoire (Onuci) had once again fired rockets at the Gbagbos residence. Several barracks, controlled by soldiers loyal to Gbagbo, were also fired at. Hamadou Touré, Onuci’s spokesman in Abidjan, said that the aim of the attacks was to eliminate the heavy weapons of the Gbagbo troops. At least four combat helicopters of the French military mission in Côte d’Ivoire called “Force Licorne” and the two Ukrainian combat helicopters of the UN mission were involved in the attacks.

The attack was carried out by direct order of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “The use of heavy weapons against civilians and blue helmet soldiers and the attack on the headquarters of the legitimate government led me once again to order Onuci to use all means to neutralise these weapons,” Ban Ki-moon said in New York on Sunday evening. Gbagbo’s spokesman, who has lived in his residence since the Ouattara attack on Abidjan, called the recent attacks “attempted murders.

Over the weekend, Gbagbo-loyal soldiers attacked the “Hotel du Golf” with grenade launchers, among other things, in which the internationally renowned President Alassane Ouattara has been living under the protection of UN soldiers since the November elections last year. Shortly afterwards, Ouattara had called on the UN to “neutralise” the heavy weapons “in accordance with the 1975 United Nations resolution”, which expressly prohibits the use of heavy weapons in the urban area of Abidjan.

Onuci Ouattara troops have not taken any weapons yet

Nevertheless, Onuci has not yet made any effort to relieve the Ouattara troops of their heavy weapons, although they are used to the same extent in the city. More than 1500 people demonstrated for Gbagbo in Paris on Sunday. Meanwhile, the United Nations deplored an “intolerable” humanitarian situation in the west of the country, where around the city of Duékoué more than 85,000 people had to flee from the fighting between Gbagbo troops and those of his adversary Ouattara. So far, hardly any help has come through to these people.

According to the International Red Cross, more than 800 people were killed during the conquest of Duékoué by the Ouattara troops. The UN accuses both sides of being responsible for the massacres. Supported by eyewitnesses, Human Rights Watch (HRW) accuses the Ouattara troops of most of the murders around Duékoué that have become known so far. Alleged Gbagbo supporters have been executed in rows, their wives raped and their homes burned to the ground.