* Mamadou Koulibaly was seen as a moderate
* Gbagbo in prison awaiting trial for alleged crimes
ABIDJAN, July 12 (Reuters) - The head of former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo’s FPI party said on Tuesday he had quit in frustration at the inability of its hardline members to move on and form a credible opposition.
Mamadou Koulibaly’s resignation as head of the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) is likely to throw Gbagbo’s already weak and fractured party into further disarray ahead of legislative elections expected by the end of the year.
Gbagbo lost an election in November to Alassane Ouattara, but he refused to accept defeat, triggering a violent power struggle that tipped the country back into civil war until he was ousted by French-backed rebels in April.
He is currently being detained in the north, awaiting trial for alleged economic crimes and a possible International Criminal Court probe into war crimes during the post-election conflict that killed at least 3,000 people.
Koulibaly, seen as a moderate and one of the few heavyweights in Gbagbo’s party not being held on criminal charges, was made interim president while former party chief Pascal Affi N’Guessan awaits trial in the north.
“It’s difficult to see a future for the FPI, if we don’t face up to what the FPI (has done) these last few years,” Koulibaly told Radio France International. “Do we not have a duty to ... learn our lessons so that we can build a great opposition?”
The FPI’s supporters and media have shown little remorse for the crisis or the killings of Ouattara supporters committed as they tried to entrench Gbagbo’s position and crush dissent.
The party refused to join Ouattara’s proposed unity government last month, unless Gbagbo is released, thereby cutting itself out of power completely, although Ouattara has re-appointed some of Gbagbo’s former military officers.
Asked if this meant too many members of the party had failed to accept that Gbagbo was finished in Ivorian politics, he said:
“That’s exactly it. Unfortunately, there are those who think (bringing Gbagbo back) should be the priority. I think this is finished. I was marginalised, so I had no other choice.”
Twenty four of Gbagbo’s close associates, including his foreign minister Alcide Djedje and prime minister Gilbert Ake have been transferred from an Abidjan hotel to a prison in the north while they await trial for crimes including embezzlement and harming state security, the Justice Ministry said on Monday.
Despite deep international support, Ouattara still faces the task of reconciling a nation bitterly divided by years of instability and ethnic strife. (Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Alison Williams)