Top ally of former Ivorian president arrested in Ghana
ABIDJAN: Ghana has arrested a top ally of Ivory Coast’s former President Laurent Gbagbo after weeks of deadly attacks on Ivorian police and military installations, officials from the two neighboring West African countries said yesterday.
Gbagbo is awaiting trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague on charges of crimes against humanity committed during a brief 2011 civil war.
Justin Kone Katinan served as Gbagbo’s budget minister during the conflict, which erupted in the world’s top cocoa grower after Gbagbo rejected the election victory in late 2010 of his rival, current President Alassane Ouattara. More than 3,000 people were killed.
Katinan had been living as a political refugee in Ghana but remained a vocal supporter of Gbagbo and a critic of Ouattara’s government. Ivory Coast issued an international warrant for his arrest last year, accusing him of economic crimes.
“He has indeed been arrested in Ghana. Discussions are under way with the Ghanaian authorities over the principle and terms of his extradition,” Ivorian government spokesman Bruno Kone told Reuters.
Ghana’s Deputy Information Minister Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa confirmed Katinan’s arrest.
Ivory Coast has been struggling to cope with a series of armed raids targeted against the country’s security services that began earlier this month. At least 15 people have been killed, stoking fears of renewed instability.
The government has accused a network of Gbagbo’s supporters both within Ivory Coast and abroad of organizing the attacks, which it says are designed to unsettle the population and foreign investors.
Gbagbo’s political allies deny being behind the raids and accuse the authorities of using the attacks as a pretext for a crackdown on the opposition.
Last year, Ouattara’s government issued around two dozen international warrants against former high-ranking military and political officials close to Gbagbo, most of whom were believed to be living in exile in Ghana, Benin and Togo.
Katinan is the second top official in Gbagbo’s government to be arrested while living in exile following the extradition of Moise Lida Kouassi, a former defense minister, from Togo in June.
Ivory Coast has criticized its neighbors, particularly Ghana, for failing to honor the warrants. Katinan’s arrest occurred just weeks after the death of Ghanaian President John Atta-Mills, generally seen as friendly towards Gbagbo’s administration.