The head of the so-called “ The invisible commando” and the architect of many coups since 1999, Ibrahim Coulibaly, was reportedly killed by the Republican forces, loyal to Guillaume Soro, Ouatarra’ s prime minister. Coulibaly, whose nick name is General IB, died after his top aide said Coulibaly’s troops were waiting for UN peacekeepers to disarm them. “Chief Sergeant Ibrahim Coulibaly has been killed this evening during fighting with the FRCI,” state television announced.
But the senior commander who directed the fighting against Coulibaly said it appeared to be a suicide. CNN may have confirmed this assertion. According to CNN, Coulibaly shot himself on the head instead of surrendering. “Our men surrounded his residence but he refused to surrender,” said the commander. “When our fighters got access, they found his body – lifeless but with no bullet wound.”
Felix Anoble, a spokesman for Coulibaly, said they were attacked while waiting for UN peacekeepers to arrive and disarm them. Reached after news of his death, Anoble told the AP he could “confirm nothing, I have no information”.
The news of IB’s death sent shockwaves across Abdjan on Thursday. IB, despite his troubled past, appeared to have risen to prominence after having led the unit that captured former strongman Laurent Gbagbo, who is now in prison awaiting trial. But there was fear within the Ouatarra’s new regime that IB could be a serious obstacle to stability in the country. In fact, he has refused to lay down his arms after several occasions to do so.
“I want to be part of the new army. We are all Ivorians and we all fought against Gbagbo. So. It’s time to bring the country back to stability,” he said to France 24 just two days ago. Few, however, believed IB, and his open quarrel with Soro, made reunification all the more impossible. Ouattara on Friday had ordered Coulibaly, 47, and his forces to disarm or expect to have weapons seized by force. Coulibaly said that disarming would take time to organize. He pledged his allegiance to the new president in an interview, but has not been received by him. “Our positions were attacked this morning by Republican Forces (FRCI) while our soldiers had met to wait for disarmament overseen by the UN,” Anoble said.
Brigadier Genernal Michel Gueu, the military adviser to Ouattara’s prime minister, Guillaume Soro, said on Tuesday he met a Coulibaly delegation to advise that they disarm. “We’re here to bring a verbal message from the president and the prime minister who ask that IB deposes his arms,” he said, adding that it was a prerequisite to meeting with the two leaders.
Coulibaly had said he considered Ouattara “like a father”, since he led the bodyguard of Ouattara’s French wife from 1990 to 1993, when he was an army chief sergeant and Ouattara was prime minister. On Monday, Coulibaly’s aides accused Soro’s camp of attacking their forces. The two men have a years-old feud. Soro’s men did not reach Abidjan until April.
In a future article, we plan to analyze the death of Ibrahim Coulibaly, and what it would mean to stability in Cote d’Ivoire.