Gbagbo told in no uncertain terms to quit
Ivory Coast’s political stalemate angers the US, EU and Kenya as clashes kill up to 30 people
ABIDJAN: Police were out in force here yesterday as supporters of the internationally recognised winner of Ivory Coast’s presidential election vowed to try once again to seize state institutions after a similar attempt the day before resulted in up to 30 deaths.
The streets of Abidjan were nearly deserted yesterday.
Civil war threatens to reignite in this nation that was once an economic hub of west Africa, with the incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo, and opposition candidate Alassane Ouattara both claiming victory in last month’s poll. The international community said Ouattara won, but Gbagbo has refused to step down.
In the Adjame area, a neighbourhood of Ouattara supporters, Gbagbo’s soldiers patrolled and fired in the air yesterday. Burning tyres were placed in roads.
Troops loyal to Gbagbo and forces backing Ouattara engaged in clashes on Thursday in Abidjan. Clashes also occurred in the capital, Yamoussoukro, and in the northern town of Bouake and the central town of Tiebissou, said Traore Drissa, a lawyer who runs the Abidjan-based Ivorian Movement for Human Rights.
Ouattara’s supporters were to march on government buildings and hold a cabinet meeting, said Guillaume Soro, whom Ouattara named as his prime minister.
“It is sad that in 2010 in our country it’s not enough to win an election,” Soro said. “Even when you win this election, you are still obliged to confront tanks to govern. “This is unacceptable.” On Thursday, Ouattara’s supporters tried to seize control of the state television building.
They did not get close to it, as it was heavily protected by Gbagbo’s troops. Police and soldiers sealed off streets around it with roadblocks and armoured personnel carriers.
Ouattara’s camp said 30 people died. Gbagbo’s people said 20 died, including 10 police officers, were killed by protesters.
Many hoped the elections in the world’s top cocoa producer would reunite the nation following a 2002-2003 war that split it in two.
Ohoupa Sessegnon, a spokesman for Gbagbo’s party, accused Gbagbo’s opponents and France of being behind T hursday’s violence.
During a press conference in South Africa yesterday, Sessegnon claimed French soldiers infiltrated the ranks of Ivorian soldiers and posed as civilians during the protest to ensure it was violent.
‘It is sad that in 2010 in our country it’s not enough to win an election’
Sessegnon, an Ivorian, chairs the South African-Ivorian chamber of commerce and is spokesman for the local chapter of Gbagbo’s party. He said he called a news conference in Johannesburg to try to rally other Africans to oppose what he claimed was a French plot to topple Gbagbo.
He said Gbagbo has angered France by seeking trading partners other than France.
Sessegnon also accused France of lobbying other Western powers to oppose Gbagbo, and rejected a call from Washington for Gbagbo to step down.
In Washington, a senior Obama administration official said the US and other nations told Gbagbo to step down and leave the country within days or face travel and financial sanctions.
The European Union is giving Gbagbo until the weekend to leave the presidency or face EU sanctions and possibly prosecution by the Inter national Court of Justice.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said yesterday all EU nations unanimously want Gbagbo to leave office in the for mer French colony, or Gbagbo and his wife will face an assets freeze and visa ban.
He said Gbagbo was responsible for turning one of Africa’s most stable nations into one where innocent people are shot in the streets by his supporters. There were inter national courts to deal with such crimes.
Kenya’s prime minister yesterday sharply criticised Gbagbo for illegitimately hanging on to power and urged him to step aside. – Sapa-AP
UN soldiers patrol a street in Abidjan yesterday.