Ivory Coast President: Strongman Will Face Charges

Ivory Coast's president said Wednesday that the country's arrested strongman will face charges "on a national level and an international level," as the president attempts to restore order after a bloody four-month standoff. Alassane Ouattara said strongman Laurent Gbagbo has been moved out of the Golf Hotel, where he was taken after his capture on Monday. He said Gbagbo will be kept in a villa and that his rights as a former head of state will be respected. A U.N. official said that its peacekeeping forces are providing personal security protection for Gbagbo.

President Alassane Ouattara meets with commanding officers from the republican forces, at the Golf Hotel in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Tuesday, April 12, 2011. Ouattara called on all fighters to put down their arms now that the longtime strongman has been captured after his refusal to cede power sparked violence leaving bodies piled at morgues.

Ivory Coast's president said Wednesday that the country's arrested strongman will face charges "on a national level and an international level," as the president attempts to restore order after a bloody four-month standoff.

Alassane Ouattara said strongman Laurent Gbagbo has been moved out of the Golf Hotel, where he was taken after his capture on Monday. He said Gbagbo will be kept in a villa and that his rights as a former head of state will be respected. A U.N. official said that its peacekeeping forces are providing personal security protection for Gbagbo.

"Gbagbo is in a residence under surveillance somewhere in Ivory Coast," Ouattara told reporters at the Golf Hotel.

The justice minister is preparing for possible prosecution of Gbagbo, he said, but gave no details.

"There will be charges (against Gbagbo) on a national level and an international level," he said. "Reconciliation cannot happen without justice."

The Hague-based International Criminal Court had no immediate comment on Ouattara's statement.

Ouattara repeated his call against violence, and said that all minors being held should be released immediately.

"We need to secure the country, notably Abidjan," he said. "It is important for the country to emerge from this crisis on top."

Ouattara said he will settle into the presidential palace in the coming days, but that a swearing-in ceremony is not a priority and will take place at a later date. He said his priority is to provide security for Ivorians, to establish law and order and to get the country working. Many Ivorians went without food and water as fighting roiled the nation last week.

Gbagbo refused to cede power after losing a November election, leading to the standoff that plunged the West African nation into chaos and killed untold numbers of people. More than 1 million civilians fled their homes amid the fighting, which also disrupted the economy of the cocoa-producing powerhouse.

New footage obtained by The Associated Press Wednesday shows pro-Ouattara fighters storming Gbagbo's residence.

The footage, shot by a pro-Ouattara fighter Monday during Gbagbo's arrest, showed forces backing Ouattara walking through the front gate carrying firearms. Many are dressed in camouflage and wearing helmets, and some are crouched in shooting position. After orders from a commander, fighters entered the residence, shot at the lock on an orange door and forced themselves inside.

The footage shows fighters putting a camouflage flak jacket on Gbagbo. He and his wife are then escorted to a car with a tank sitting nearby. Gbagbo was then handed off to U.N. peacekeepers and taken to Ouattara's Abidjan headquarters.

U.N. peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy said Wednesday that the United Nations provided transportation for Gbagbo and continues to provide personal security protection for him while he is in custody at Ouattara's request.

Speaking to reporters before a Security Council meeting about the West African country, Le Roy said fighting continued in Ivory Coast Wednesday, along with "quite a bit of looting."

U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos painted a bleak picture of daily life in Ivory Coast, with food scarce, entire neighborhoods without electricity, and many hospitals and schools closed.

President Alassane Ouattara meets with commanding officers from the republican forces, at the Golf Hotel in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Tuesday, April 12, 2011. Ouattara called on all fighters to put down their arms now that the longtime strongman has been captured after his refusal to cede power sparked violence leaving bodies piled at morgues.

"We need to act now," Amos said, appealing on nations to donate more money for humanitarian assistance to the west African county. "We must not let the people of Ivory Coast down."

Amos, who visited the country last week before Gbagbo was captured, said "there are still many political challenges ahead."

"In this highly militarized context, I am concerned about the security vacuum" in many parts of the country." She said it was "crucial" that Ouattara and all other groups in the country respect the physical integrity of citizens amid recent reports of mass killings, forced disappearances and sexual assaults.

Ouattara on Wednesday also said that an investigation would be opened into the mass killings.

Rights groups have accused pro-Gbagbo and pro-Ouattara fighters of killings hundreds since March. Reprisal killings erupted as Ouattara's fighters made a lightning assault to force Gbagbo from power. And despite Gbagbo's detention, suspected Gbagbo supporters are still being rounded up in cities and villages, especially in western Ivory Coast.

No one knows how many people have been killed. A week ago when the United Nations was reporting more than 400 deaths throughout the country, the International Federation of the Red Cross Society said thousands had been killed and wounded.

French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet also said Wednesday that France will reduce its military force in the Ivory Coast from 1,700 to 980 troops as soon as possible. Longuet said French forces took a secondary role to Ouattara's forces and the U.N. in capturing Gbagbo.

The French will not make any decision on an eventual pullout until at least June, he said, because the future of the French force will depend on the U.N. decision in June on whether to renew the mandate for its force.

"Patrols of Ivorian and French gendarmes will circulate in Abidjan to show that there is a state of law that is being put in place," Longuet told a parliamentary hearing on Ivory Coast on Wednesday.

He said the head of the Ivorian gendarme service, the director of police, the chief of staff of the armed forces and the chief of staff of the army have all offered their services to Ouattara.

AP