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Ivory Coast braces for another day of marches

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-12-17

Supporters of Alassane Ouattara, one of Ivory Coast’s two self-declared presidents, were set to march in Abidjan again Friday in a bid to seize the country's state TV headquarters, which are controlled by incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo.

Ivory Coast was braced for another day of marches Friday following Thursday’s violent clashes between troops loyal to rival presidential contenders, which left dozens of people dead, according to FRANCE 24 correspondents on the ground.

For a second day in a row, supporters of Alassane Ouattara were set to try to seize the country’s state television headquarters following a call by the Ivorian opposition leader, regarded as the winner of last month’s presidential poll by the international community.

The RTI state television, however, is controlled by Ouattara’s rival, incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo, and secured by Ivorian military troops loyal to Gbagbo. State TV is the main source of news for many Ivorians and has been strongly supportive of Gbagbo during the latest political crisis.

On Thursday, violence broke out in the country’s main city of Abidjan as Ouattara supporters attempting to reach the RTI building clashed with Ivorian military troops.

It was the first major outbreak of deadly violence since the Nov. 28 presidential runoff. In the wake of the disputed results, both Gbagbo and Ouattara have sworn themselves into office and appointed cabinets.

Former rebels loyal to Ouattara's prime minister, Guillaume Soro, fought fierce gun battles with Gbagbo's government security forces in the sky scraper-lined city.

Ouattara supporters accused the army of attacking unarmed civilian protesters. “The government asked to organise a peaceful march”, Patrick Achi, a spokesperson for Ouattara, told FRANCE 24 on Thursday. “Those who participated went with bare hands, unarmed. They were shot at with live bullets.”

But Gbagbo supporters maintained that opposition supporters fired on army troops. “Those who came to this supposed peaceful protest shot real bullets at the security forces,” Emile Guiriéoulou, Gbagbo’s interior minister, told FRANCE 24.

The two rival camps are likely to face off again Friday, said FRANCE 24’s Cyril Vanier, reporting from Abidjan.

“Alassane Ouattara’s government has called on supporters to keep up the pressure on the streets, calling the Gbagbo regime a dictatorship and their planned marches a ‘march to freedom.' But meanwhile, Laurent Gbagbo controls the army which clearly has orders to quell any form of protest. So yes, the two sides are very much on a collision course today,” said Vanier.

Another African emissary in town for talks

The West African nation has been in crisis since the Nov. 28 runoff. The political stalemate has ground economic activity in the world’s largest cocoa-growing nation to a halt.

In the latest attempt to resolve the situation, Jean Ping, chairman of the African Union Commission, is set to hold talks with Gbagbo and Ouattara in Abidjan Friday.

Ping’s mediation effort follows an earlier peacekeeping effort by former South African President Thabo Mbeki, who failed to broker a solution.

Ping's visit underscores the difficulties the AU - and the international community – faces in trying to get Gbagbo to step down.

“It’s not clear what specific bargaining chip, if any, John Ping has when he begins his negotiations,” said Vanier.

Following Thursday’s violence, the US has warned Gbagbo that he has “limited time” to cede power to his rival Ouattara.


Date created : 2010-12-17


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