Africa

Ivory Coast: Gbagbo party urges 'end to war'

Pro-Ouattara soldiers patrol Abidjan, 15 April
Image caption Heavily armed pro-Ouattara soldiers have been patrolling Abidjan

The party of deposed Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo, the Ivorian Popular Front, has appealed for an end to fighting by armed groups.

Party leader Pascal Affi N'Guessan said the "war" had to end in order to allow Ivory Coast a chance to rebuild.

Forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara, who won November's presidential election, captured Mr Gbagbo this week.

Shooting erupted on Saturday morning outside the main city, Abidjan, between Gbagbo and Ouattara supporters.

Pro-Gbagbo fighters had sought refuge in the sprawling Yopougon neighbourhood and pro-Ouattara fighters were trying to disarm them, local residents said.

Fears of reprisals among Gbagbo supporters have been stoked by reports of atrocities committed in the days before pro-Ouattara forces advanced on Abidjan.

At least 1,500 people have been killed in violence since the election while a further million have been forced from their homes in the west African state, which was once seen as a model of development for Africa.

'Chaotic situation'

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Media captionPascal Affi N'Guessan: "We hope to finish this quickly so the country can return to normal"

"In many places, some of our compatriots are still fighting," said Mr Affi N'Guessan, reading out a statement to the nation, at the Abidjan hotel used as President Ouattara's headquarters.

"The FPI [Ivorian Popular Front] is devastated by the chaotic situation and presents its sympathies to the families of all those who have died."

Standing alongside former Foreign Minister Alcide Djedje, he called for a halt to "the escalation of violence".

"In the name of peace, let us end the war," he said. "Let us put an end to all forms of belligerence and confrontation. We must give our country the chance for restoration and reconstruction."

International journalists initially were prevented from hearing the FPI leader's declaration by a pro-Ouattara military officer, an Associated Press news agency correspondent reports.

Only Mr Ouattara's Ivorian Radio and Television, known by its French acronym RTI, was first allowed to film the declaration.

However, after journalists telephoned ministers in Mr Ouattara's cabinet complaining, they were allowed to record separately Mr Affi N'Guessan's statement.

Gbagbo under guard

Mr Affi N'Guessan is a former prime minister in the Gbagbo government and was seen as a hardliner, so his appeal reflects an acceptance that the struggle for power has been lost, and a feeling that Ivorians now need to get on with restoring normal life, the BBC's John James reports from Abidjan.

The call coincided with the release this weekend of around 70 prisoners held by the Ouattara government - mainly members of Laurent Gbagbo's family and household staff who were arrested when the presidential residence was stormed.

The Ouattara government has told civil servants to return to work from Monday morning, though most have not received their salaries for several months and the banks remain closed.

Many moderate members of Mr Gbagbo's government have now pledged allegiance to President Ouattara, whose victory was recognised by the UN.

The former president is believed to be living under UN protection in a town in northern Ivory Coast, where Mr Ouattara has his power base.

Mr Ouattara has said he wants his predecessor tried by both national and international courts for alleged crimes.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague has said it is conducting a preliminary examination into crimes perpetrated by all sides in the conflict.

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