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Violence erupts between rivals in Ivory Coast standoff

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-12-16

Supporters of presidential candidate Alasanne Ouattara clashed with security forces in Ivory Coast Thursday after Ouattara's call to mobilize against the continuing political stalemate in the country.

AFP - Clashes erupted Thursday as troops loyal to one of the fragile West African state's two self-declared presidents mobilised to halt a bid by protesters to storm state television headquarters.          

Incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo's police and soldiers had earlier set up a cordon of armoured cars around the broadcaster's Abidjan offices, as France and the United Nations called for restraint and warned of the dangers of a return to violence.
Young supporters of Gbagbo's rival Alassane Ouattara began to gather in northern city districts, braving a massively increased security pressure to bring their champion's cause to the street.
Police fired teargas as they violently dispersed a group of marchers in the Abobo district, and at least three protesters were wounded, an AFP reporter said. In nearby Adjame, an AFP photographer heard gunshots.
Stone-throwing youths threw up barricades in the north of the city.
Both Ouattara and Gbagbo claim to have won last month's election, and both have declared themselves president, triggering fears of new chaos in a country already divided since 2002 into northern and southern armed camps.
"The situation is taking a worrying turn with unfolding events that could lead to widespread violence," United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned Wednesday, according to his spokesman in New York.
On the eve of the march, witnesses and a health official in the political capital Yamoussoukro told AFP that several pro-Ouattara demonstrators had been shot and wounded when security forces broke up a protest there.
I believe we must avoid any violence. Ivory Coast does not need that. I believe Gbagbo will accept the result of the election in which Ivorians very clearly chose Ouattara as their president.

French Foreign Minister, Michele Alliot-Marie

Ouattara was recognised by the international community but is running out of time to assert his rule, with the incumbent Gbagbo hanging on to the military, the ministries and the cocoa ports that are the key levers of state power.
After two weeks of stalemate and hard-line rhetoric from both sides, Ouattara and his would-be prime minister, former rebel leader Guillaume Soro, called on their supporters to march on and seize RTI television on Thursday.
If this succeeds, Soro hopes to push on Friday to take control of the well-defended government headquarters complex in the central Plateau district of Abidjan, eject Gbagbo's ministers and hold a cabinet meeting of his own.
The army and Gbagbo's hard-line youth supporters, the "Young Patriots" movement led by Youth Minister Charles Ble Goude -- who is under UN sanctions for leading mob violence in 2004 - have vowed to resist.
A military spokesman accused the United Nations of supporting the march, and alleged it was simply an attempt to provoke the security forces into violence.
As Thursday dawned, life was continuing as normal in the plush suburb of Cocody, under the watchful eyes of a well-armed squad of police and soldiers manning a barricade of armoured cars around RTI headquarters.
But in Abobo and Adjama, poor districts that voted for Ouattara, crowds of youths gathered to march, and were faced with a massive security presence.
Ouattara's shadow government is holed up in a luxury hotel on an Abidjan golf course, protected by UN peacekeepers and former rebel fighters from Soro's northern "New Forces".
But, while the pair are popular in the mainly-Muslim north, in the southern commercial capital, they are outgunned by Gbagbo's regulars, in particular the feared Republican Guard and the well-armed Cecos anti-robbery squad.
Last month's presidential election was suppose to reunited the Ivory Coast after a long-running political crisis that began in 2002 with a failed putsch against Gbagbo that led to a civil war between north and south.
France, which has recognised Ouattara as the victor, called for restraint from both sides. "I believe we must avoid any violence. Ivory Coast does not need that." French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie told LCI television. "I believe Gbagbo will accept the result of the election in which Ivorians very clearly chose Ouattara as their president," she added.
Gbagbo's supporters have accused France and the United Nations of planning a “genocide” in Ivory Coast and anti-French feeling is running high.


Date created : 2010-12-16