Gbagbo clings on as Abidjan rocked by fighting


ABIDJAN – Ivory Coast’s Laurent Gbagbo desperately clung to power Friday as explosions and gunfire rocked Abidjan as forces loyal to leader-in-waiting Alassane Ouattara closed in on his last bastion.
While the 65-year-old strongman remained silent, his whereabouts unknown, a close aide said he has no intention of giving himself up. Internationally recognised president Ouattara’s forces swept into the economic capital Thursday with little resistance from Gbagbo’s army.
As the African Union joined a chorus of international calls for the long-time incumbent to step down, machinegun-fire and heavy artillery resounded in the administrative district of Plateau, shaking the walls of buildings, according to AFP journalists.
A plume of smoke rose into the sky near the presidential palace and streets were deserted as terrified residents remained indoors. Ouattara’s camp remained positive of victory, saying Gbagbo’s presidential guard, the last remaining forces he can count on, could not hold out much longer.
“I don’t think Laurent Gbagbo is capable of resisting for much longer with all the defections in his ranks … he is condemned to be removed,” spokeswoman Anna Ouloto told AFP.
Army for ‘all Ivorians’ takes first steps from chaos
YAMOUSSOUKRO – On Wednesday, Ivorian army General Sekou Toure watched his men as they either fled the incoming forces of Alassane Ouattara or rushed to join their ranks as yet another town fell to their advance.
By Thursday Toure, the top commander for incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo in the official capital Yamoussoukro, pulled off a strategic back-flip as he welcomed Ouattara’s prime minister to an inspection of the defectors, watched over by the victors.
“Today the main thing is that everybody can train their sights in the same direction, to create this new army,” Toure told Reuters as he waited for the ceremony to begin in the local parade ground of the defeated army.
The sincerity of rapid conversions may prompt scepticism. But whether other soldiers follow suit could determine which way the military pendulum swings in the hours and days ahead. Reuters