Several thousand youths loyal to Ivory Coast incumbent Laurent Gbagbo marched through Abidjan on Saturday to protest the presence of Burkina Faso's president on a mediation panel aiming to resolve a post-election crisis.
AFP - Thousands of supporters of strongman Laurent Gbagbo rallied Saturday against Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore's presence on an African panel mediating peace in Ivory Coast.
The crowd included Gbagbo's wife, Simone, a major figure in his regime who was applauded on her arrival to hear a speech by key ally Charles Ble Goude, who called the rally in downtown Abidjan.
"Blaise Compaore is not on the panel as president of (Burkina) Faso, it's (French President) Nicolas Sarkozy who is on the panel and we cannot accept this," said Ble Goude, who spearheaded sometimes violent anti-French demonstrations several years ago.
"We can never accept this," added the man dubbed the "General of the Streets" for his ability to draw large crowds and stage noisy demonstrations.
A large banner brandished by demonstrators read: "Compaore, this is our country, we don't want your mediation, stay in Burkina Faso."
Gbagbo supporters claim the Burkinabe leader, who mediated the Ivorian peace process between 2007 and 2010, covertly supported a failed 2002 uprising against Gbagbo that effectively split Ivory Coast in two.
Ble Goude has said Compaore, who was appointed an African Union mediator last month to resolve the dragging political crisis in Ivory Coast, had become a "complicator" instead by calling on an African force to "attack Ivory Coast."
"All they need to do is take Blaise Compaore from the panel, we're not asking any more than that. We don't want to see him on Ivorian territory," Ble Goude told the crowd.
Gbagbo's government, however, has not officially objected to Compaore's presence on the panel whose members are due here on Sunday. The group also includes the presidents of Chad, South Africa, Mauritania and Tanzania, are due to arrive in Abidjan on Sunday.
The African Union has tasked the panel with securing a binding solution by the end of February to the crisis in Ivory Coast, where Gbagbo is refusing to step down as president in favour of Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognised winner of disputed November 28 elections.
Date created : 2011-02-06