Ouattara urges military to desert Gbagbo

Yamoussoukro, April 01: Ivorian president-elect has called on the country’s military to join him as the deadline set for incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo to quit expires.

Ivorian president-elect Alassane Ouattara addressed the military on national television saying, “To all those who are still hesitating, whether you are generals, superior officers, officers, under-officers, rank-and-file soldiers, I ask you to put yourself at the disposal of your country and thereby return to legality. There is still time to join your brothers-in-arms, the Republican Forces,” Reuters reported.

On Thursday, Ouattara set a deadline at 1900 GMT for Gbagbo to step down, with Gbagbo’s next move now uncertain. The US is urging Gbagbo to resign to prevent more bloodshed.

Ouattara’s Interior Minister Hamed Bakayoko has responded by announcing the closure of Ivory Coast’s land, sea and air borders “until further notice.”

An overnight curfew from 2100 GMT to 0600 GMT in the main city of Abidjan has been ordered until Sunday by the Ouattara’s government.

Opposition forces are reportedly stationed at the outskirts of Abidjan and have clashed with forces loyal to Gbagbo. They have captured around a dozen cities and towns across the Ivory Coast since launching a general offensive on Monday. They are now in control of the capital Yamoussoukro.

French and UN troops are patrolling some parts of the city, with the UN troops having taken control of Abidjan airport.

Gbagbo’s army chief has sought refuge at the home of South Africa’s ambassador in Abidjan.

The Ivory Coast has been hit by deadly violence after Gbagbo refused to recognize the results of the presidential election in November.

According to the UN mission in the Ivory Coast, 365 people have been killed since the presidential standoff escalated in December in the West African nation.

Nearly 25,000 Ivorians have fled to neighboring Liberia following the post-poll instability in the former French colony.