Ivory Coast: Opposition supporters to march on government buildings
Police were out in force in the Ivory Coast city of Abidjan today as supporters of the internationally recognised winner of the presidential election again said they would attempt to seize state institutions after a similar attempt resulted in up to 30 deaths yesterday.
The streets of the city were almost deserted, with shops shuttered as civil war threatened to reignite in the west African nation.
Supporters of the opposition candidate Alassane Ouattara pledged to march on government buildings and hold a cabinet meeting, Guillaume Soro, whom Ouattara named as his prime minister, said.
“It is sad that, in 2010 in our country, it’s not enough to win an election,” Soro added. “Even when you win this election, you are still obliged to confront tanks to govern. This is unacceptable.”
The incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo, and Ouattara both claimed victory in last month’s election. The international community said Ouattara won, but Gbagbo has refused to step down.
In the Adjame area of Abidjan – an Ouattara stronghold – Gbagbo’s soldiers patrolled and fired shots into the air. Tyres burned on some roads.
Troops loyal to Gbagbo and forces backing Ouattara engaged in a firefight in Abidjan yesterday, with clashes also occurring in the capital, Yamoussoukro, the northern town of Bouake and the central town of Tiebissou, Traore Drissa, a lawyer who runs the Abidjan-based Ivorian Movement for Human Rights, said.
Yesterday, Ouattara’s supporters tried to seize control of the state television building – heavily protected by Gbagbo’s troops – but did not get close to it.
Police and soldiers sealed off the surrounding streets with roadblocks and armoured personnel carriers.
Ouattara’s camp said 30 people died, while Gbagbo’s said 20 – including 10 police officers – had been killed.
Many observers had hoped the election would reunite the nation following a 2002-03 civil war that split it in two.
Ohoupa Sessegnon, a spokesman for Gbagbo’s party, accused Gbagbo’s opponents and France of being behind the violence, which he called “regretful”.
During a press conference in South Africa, he claimed French soldiers had infiltrated the ranks of Ivorian soldiers and posed as civilians during the protest to ensure it was violent. “They want to kill, so that the killing that takes place can be blamed on President Laurent Gbagbo,” he claimed.
Sessegnon, an Ivorian, chairs the South African-Ivorian chamber of commerce in South Africa and is the 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 in the former French colony. He said Gbabgo had angered the French 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 and leave the country.
Yesterday, a senior US official said the US and other nations had told Gbagbo to leave within days or face travel and financial sanctions.
The EU is giving him until the weekend to leave the presidency or face sanctions and possible prosecution by the international court.
The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, said all EU nations wanted Gbagbo to leave office. Sarkozy said Gbagbo was responsible for turning one of Africa’s most stable nations into one where innocent people could shot in the streets by his supporters.
Ivory Coast has been operating with two presidents and two governments since the disputed runoff election on 28 November.
Ouattara was declared the winner by the country’s electoral commission, and was recognised by the UN, the US, France and the African Union as having beaten Gbagbo. However, the constitutional council overturned the results after invalidating half a million votes from Ouattara strongholds the following day.