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Thursday 9 February 2023 Dublin: 2°C
Aristide Bodegla/AP President Alassane Ouattara addresses the nation from the Golf Hotel after his predecessor Laurent Gbagbo was arrested yesterday.
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Ouattara heralds "new era of hope" for Ivory Coast
Alassane Ouattara formally takes power – and asks his country to remain calm during the first days of his tenure.

THE ELECTED PRESIDENT of the Ivory Coast has heralded “the dawn of a new era of hope” after a bloody, four-month standoff ended with the capture of his rival, the longtime strongman who lost the vote but refused to give up power.

“After more than four months of post-electoral crisis, marked by so many human lives lost, we are finally at the dawn of a new era of hope,” Alassane Ouattara said in an address to the nation, broadcast live on radio and television.

Ouattara cut short speculation that his predecessor Laurent Gbagbo – who had refused to cede power despite being beaten in last year’s election – would be delivered to the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

Instead, Ouattara called for an Ivorian investigation into the former president, his wife and their entourage:

Every measure has been taken to assure the physical integrity of Mr Laurent Gbagbo, his wife and all those arrested… They will receive dignified treatment and their rights will be respected.

Ouattara also said he intended to establish a truth and reconciliation commission and called on all fighters to put down their arms.

Video of former president Laurent Gbagbo being led into a room in a white undershirt was broadcast on television as proof of his detention. Gbagbo would not sign a statement formally ceding power after losing the election – which itself had been delayed for five years – on November 28.

More than 1 million civilians fled their homes and untold numbers were killed in the power struggle between the two rivals that threatened to re-ignite a civil war in the world’s largest cocoa producer. Gbagbo’s security forces have been accused of using cannons, 60mm mortars and 50-calibre machine guns to mow down opponents during the standoff.

President Barack Obama welcomed Gbagbo’s capture, calling it a victory for the democratic will of the Ivorian people, who “have the chance to begin to reclaim their country, solidify their democracy and rebuild a vibrant economy.”

Gbagbo, who ruled the former French colony for a decade, was pulled from his burning residence by Ouattara’s troops following fighting earlier in the day. The pro-Ouattara forces had received support by French tanks and helicopters.

Residents of the commercial capital of Abidjan refrained from celebrating in public, still fearful of the many armed fighters prowling the streets and refusing to believe their leader had been arrested. Sporadic gunfire echoed across the city Monday night.

Gbagbo, 65, could be forced to answer for his soldiers’ crimes, even though an international trial threatens to stoke the divisions that Ouattara will now have to heal as president.

AP