by editor | 17th December 2010 8:56 am
Security forces loyal to Ivory Coast’s isolated leader Laurent Gbagbo clash with opposition rebels and protesters
Xan Rice in Nairobi
Security forces loyal to Ivory Coast’s isolated leader Laurent Gbagbo clashed violently with opposition-aligned rebels and demonstrators today [Thursday] , leaving several people dead and pushing the country closer to all out conflict.
In the main city Abidjan, police used live rounds to disperse supporters of Alassane Ouattara, the widely acknowledged winner of last month’s presidential run-off, as they marched on the headquarters of state television. News agencies said at least four people were killed, although an opposition spokesman claimed the death toll could be as high as 18.
Elsewhere in the city, the army exchanged heavy fire with rebel forces guarding the hotel where Ouattara is holed up, after the rebels tried to remove roadblocks. A stray rocket-propelled grenade hit the perimeter wall of the US embassy, though no one was hurt.
As gunfire echoed across the city, and UN helicopters flew overhead, most residents stayed at home, fearful of a return to the civil war of 2002-2003 that left the country divided between a rebel-held north and government-controlled south. The New Forces rebels have backed Ouattara, a northerner, and, in an ominous development, they clashed with government troops in the central town of Tiebissou when trying to push south of the ceasefire line.
“I’m afraid things are going to get worse and worse,” said Venance Konan, a well-known journalist and author, speaking from Abidjan. “There’s talk of negotiation, but what are they [the two leaders] going to negotiate?”
Despite being almost completely diplomatically isolated, Gbagbo seems intent on staying in power. In the run-off against Ouattara, a former prime minister, he won only 46% of the vote – a result confirmed by the UN, which has a large peacekeeping mission in the country.
But the constitutional council, headed by a Gbagbo ally, overturned the result, alleging fraud.
Ouattara has formed a parallel administration, with Guillaume Soro, a former rebel who served as prime minister to Gbagbo, switching sides to be his deputy. UN peacekeepers are helping guard them in the Golf Hotel.Ouattara appears to be losing patience with the impasse, and had called on his supporters in Abidjan to take over the state broadcaster Radio Télévision Ivorienne, which continues to air pro-Gbagbo propaganda. Despite the failure to seize the building – and the human cost of the effort – Ouattara’s allies have called for more street protests. Amnesty International, which accused police of shooting dead nine unarmed demonstrators on Thursdaytoday , warned that the country “has never been so close to a resumption of civil war”.
“Every effort must be made to prevent further escalation of violence that could have a huge impact on the country and on the whole sub-region pushing thousands of people to flee the country,” said Amnesty’s West Africa researcher, Salvatore Saguès.
Source URL: https://globalrights.info/2010/12/ivory-coast-violence-leaves-18-dead/
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