WASHINGTON – A leading Republican senator has accused France of seeking to impose a neo-colonial order in Ivory Coast and called for the toppled leader Laurent Gbagbo to be sent into exile for his own safety.
In a speech from the floor of the Senate on Tuesday, Senator James Inhofe said French and UN troops who took part in military operations against Gbagbo in the country's main city Abidjan had blood on their hands.
"I renew my call for hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on the bombings and killing by the UN, French, and the Ouattara rebels," said Inhofe.
"I've warned the UN and the French on the floor four times in the past week that they would have blood on their hands if they continued supporting the rebel forces of Alassane Ouattara and continued the bombing" of Abidjan.
Ouattara, widely regarded by the international community as having beaten Gbagbo in a November presidential poll, was finally able to take power on Monday after his rival was captured in an assault on his residence.
Although France has denied its troops were present at the capture, Gbagbo's supporters say that it was an operation led by French special forces.
France also took part in air raids on pro-Gbagbo targets in the build-up to Monday's capture, along with UN forces, and it announced Wednesday that French troops would patrol Abidjan as Ouattara tries to quell resistance.
Speaking to AFP, Inhofe said he wanted the US government to intervene to prevent further violence and called for Gbagbo -- who is now under house arrest -- to be transferred to another country.
"I want the State Department to get a ceasefire to stop the murdering, which they could do. And get the UN to do the same thing. And secondly send Gbagbo in exile in some place where he's not going to be murdered," Inhofe said.
"I love the French, it's just that they are so dead wrong in their attitude toward sub-Saharan Africa," Inhofe told AFP.
In his speech in the Senate, Inhofe insisted that "this is not about Gbagbo."
"This is about the modern days return to French colonial imperialism. And this time with the help of the United Nations, they were doing this."
US President Barack Obama on Tuesday called Ouattara to congratulate him on taking power, and called for justice for the victims of the bloody political crisis.
The White House said Tuesday that Obama and Ouattara reiterated the need to ensure that alleged atrocities during weeks of political turmoil were investigated and that those responsible should be held accountable.