Report: Gbagbo apparently received aid from Sudan

AP News
Posted: Apr 26, 2013 4:37 PM

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) — A new report from a U.N. expert panel raises the possibility that former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo received substantial ammunition transfers from Sudan as he clung to power during postelection violence two years ago.

The country's U.N. peacekeeping mission has found "several tens of thousands of rounds" of ammunition for assault rifles believed to have been produced in Sudan in 2010 and 2011, according to the report posted online Thursday.

"This ammunition has been frequently identified in military camps in western Ivory Coast and in weapons collection events relating to the continuing process of disarmament of ex-combatants," the report says.

The peacekeeping mission also identified individual rounds of the ammunition following an August 2012 raid on one of the largest military camps in Abidjan.

The raid, which killed at least six soldiers, was the most high-profile in a series of attacks on security installations last year allegedly orchestrated by Gbagbo loyalists based in neighboring Liberia and Ghana.

Investigations by the peacekeeping mission indicate that the ammunition was sent to Gbagbo's fighters before the former president was arrested in April 2011, the report says.

Sudanese officials could not immediately be reached for comment Friday concerning the U.N. expert panel report.

Gbagbo refused to cede office after losing the November 2010 presidential runoff to current President Alassane Ouattara, sparking five months of violence that claimed at least 3,000 lives, according to U.N. estimates. He was taken into custody following French and U.N. intervention in support of fighters backing Ouattara.

Gbagbo was transferred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague in November 2011 on crimes against humanity charges, becoming the first former head of state to be taken into the court's custody.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is also wanted by the ICC on genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes charges over atrocities committed in the Darfur region.

The new report also includes a July 2010 memorandum signed by a delegation from Gbagbo's Ivorian Popular Front political party and Bashir's National Congress Party that pledges security cooperation, including "mutual assistance in case of external foreign interference."

The memorandum was signed during a week of meetings in Sudan that included a visit to armaments factories, according to the report.

The U.N. experts said they "cannot rule out the possibility that the visit to the Sudan was closely related to the subsequent discovery in Ivory Coast of Sudanese ammunition manufactured in 2010 and 2011."

According to the report, the entourage of former first lady Simone Gbagbo was "actively seeking external support, including military support" in the months before the former president was arrested. An ICC arrest warrant against Simone Gbagbo was unsealed last November, though she remains in Ivorian custody.

The U.N. Security Council voted this week to extend for one year an arms embargo first imposed on Ivory Coast in 2004.