Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Ivory Coast: Gbagbo family freed

Boys participate in a community effort to burn rubbish in Abidjan, Ivory Coast (AP)

Ivory Coast's justice minister says dozens of family members and domestic workers of disgraced strongman Laurent Gbagbo have been freed from detention.

Jeannot Ahoussou announced on national television that the government released nearly 70 of about 120 people arrested when fighters stormed the presidential residence where Gbagbo had dug in for a last stand after refusing to cede power to the internationally recognised president.

He said 38 were workers including cooks and gardeners. About 30 family members, including Gbagbo's grandchildren, were taken to a secret location, he said.

Gbagbo's former Foreign Minister Alcide Djedje said they were at a family home near the seaside resort of Grand Bassam, under UN protection.

On Tuesday, former Interior Minister Desiree Tagro died after being shot and badly beaten during Monday's assault that ended four months of fighting over elections won by Alassane Ouattara.

The international community had for months urged Gbagbo to step down, and a West African regional bloc threatened military intervention. The president of Gambia expressed support for Gbagbo, who was arrested Monday by pro-Ouattara forces.

"Alassane Ouattara and his forces cannot go scot-free and blame everything on President Laurent Gbagbo who, according to the Ivorian Constitution, is the legitimate (leader) of Ivory Coast," read a government statement broadcast by state television in the tiny West African nation.

The statement from the government of President Yahya Jammeh, who grabbed power in a 1994 coup, said Gbagbo should not be brought before any court "while Alassane Ouattara, the internationally selected president of Ivory Coast, goes scot-free after massacring thousands of civilians just to be president."

The president of neighbouring Liberia, which has seen droves of refugees, said regional leaders did not have the "the kind of capacity, the fire power, the equipment, military machine that is necessary to force people out of power."

"I was very sad when I saw the photographs of how former President Gbagbo was arrested," said President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. "It shouldn't have come to that; that was why we tried to persuade him to leave in dignity, and to leave in honour but he didn't heed that warning; and so it's unfortunate."

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