By Monica Mark, Time
The stage is set for a final showdown in Ivory Coast after the army chief of staff abandoned strongman Laurent Gbagbo. General Philippe Mangou sought refuge with his family in the South African ambassador's home on the night of March 30. Mangou had ostensibly led the national army (known as FDS) that has propped up Gbagbo for four months since he lost a November run-off. Two other ranking officers defected as well. The defections come as forces loyal to Gbagbo's challenger Alassane Ouattara — the internationally recognized winner of the elections — closed in on the main city of Abidjan.
Gbagbo was apparently stunned by the Mangou defection. Speaking to TIME on condition of anonymity, a lieutenant in the national army, known as the FDS, said Gbagbo had called him on Thursday morning, "demanding to know if the rumors were true. The first he'd heard of it was on a news channel." The lieutenant added: "From a military standpoint, this is game over. Nobody can go into battle without a commander — who or what are we fighting for?" The lieutenant believes Gbagbo's defeat is imminent.
The dramatic flight of Mangou crowns a sweeping reversal in the momentum for Ouattara supporters. Cooped up in an Abidjan hotel encircled by United Nations peacekeepers, the winner of the United Nations-certified polls has - until now - been literally powerless as the incumbent refused to relinquish the reins of power. Backed by the army and with state TV in his grip, Gbagbo has maintained his legitimacy through a propaganda war - which propelled thousands of youths to answer a March 17 appeal to enlist en masse.
Read the rest of the article over at Time.