Ironically, on the very day that France’s law banning the wearing of full-face coverings went into effect, French military forces helped Muslims add another country in Africa to their growing Caliphate – the Ivory Coast.
The French, the former colonial rulers in the Ivory Coast, forced the surrender of former president Laurent Gbagbo to forces loyal to president-elect Alassane Ouattara, who the international community had recognized as the victor in last year’s presidential election.
Ouattara is a Muslim, who prevailed in this election over his Christian opponent Gbagbo on the strength of masses of illegal immigrants who had emigrated over the last several decades from the neighboring Muslim states of Burkina Faso, Mali and Guinea. It is estimated that nearly one fifth of the 21 million people now living in Ivory Coast are illegal immigrants, most of whom are Muslims.
What was once a prosperous Christian country, viewed as a haven of peace and prosperity in the West Africa region, and home to the region’s largest cathedral, was overrun in the north with an influx of illegal immigrants that divided the country. Before exploiting this influx to help achieve victory in last year’s election, the increasing number of Muslims in the north had previously tried to seize power militarily nearly ten years ago in the economic center of the country, Abidjan. They were defeated there, but other Muslim troops took control across the north, helping to destabilize a now divided nation. Ouattara took advantage of the chaos and dissatisfaction in the north to mobilize his supporters for his election victory, which the international community ratified.
The French, acting under a UN Security Council resolution to ensure that civilians would be protected in any ensuing civil war, decided to finally oust Gbagbo from power and hand the country over to Ouattara. However, despite bombarding Gbagbo’s residence in Abidjan with helicopter gunships and deploying armored vehicles against Gbagbo’s remaining defenses, the French made sure that they would not appear like colonialist conquerors.
Thus, they allowed Ouattara’s own forces to actually arrest Gbagbo and take him into custody along with his wife. But we all know that Gbagbo’s surrender came about only after the French decided to flex their military muscle in their former colony. Reportedly, more than thirty French tanks or armored vehicles, each with several French soldiers inside, moved on Gbagbo’s residence in the final hours before Gbagbo’s surrender, after the French and UN peacekeeping forces attacked his compound with air strikes overnight. Unless he wanted to go down fighting, Gbagbo had no other option but to surrender.
Nevertheless, a French Defense Ministry official tried to downplay France’s role in bringing about Gbagbo’s final downfall: “It’s not French forces who arrested Laurent Gbagbo … It was Ouattara forces supported by UNOCI and Licorne (French forces).”
Ouattara’s envoy to the United Nations, Yousoufou Bamba, reiterated this message, stressing to UN reporters that the Republican Forces of the Ivory Coast had made the arrest, not the French.
United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Alain Le Roy told reporters after briefing the Security Council that Gbagbo was currently in an apartment in the Golf Hotel in Abidjan, where Ouattara and his entourage have been based under UNOCI (the UN mission in the Ivory Coast) protection since the result of the election was declared.
“I can confirm that the former president and his wife are at the Golf Hotel… UNOCI has been requested to ensure their security,” said Mr. Le Roy, adding that it was up to Mr. Ouattara to decide what do to with his predecessor. “The Council is pleased [with the latest development], but it is not euphoria,” Mr. Le Roy said. He noted that there were still likely to be pockets of resistance in Abidjan, but the city was largely quiet. He also emphasized that French and UN peacekeeping forces operated within the bounds of the UN Security Council resolution authorizing the use of all necessary means to protect civilians, which included destroying Gbagbo’s heavy weapons.
One might think that Gbagbo’s surrender was a good thing, ending a bloody civil war and allowing the democratically elected president to be able to assume office while the strong man standing in his way is in custody to face justice.