Presidential candidate Alassane Ouattara has called for a fresh round of protests for Friday, a day after heavy fighting between security forces and Ouattara supporters killed at least 30 people.
Abidjan, Ivory Coast’s main city, seemed to have returned to calm late Thursday, after a day of violent clashes between troops loyal to rival presidential contenders left at least 30 people dead, according to France 24 correspondents on the ground.
The latest violence came as supporters of presidential contender Alassane Ouattara attempted to heed his call to march on the state television (RTI) headquarters, which are controlled by incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo. Deadly skirmishes broke out as security forces loyal to Gbagbo clashed with protesters loyal to Ouattara.
Ouattara – who was declared winner of Ivory Coast’s Nov. 28 presidential elections by the country’s electoral commission and has the support of the international community – has called on supporters to march in the direction of RTI and government headquarters again Friday.
“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”.
Achi confirmed that there were 30 people killed and at least 50 injured in the skirmishes.
According to Gbagbo’s interior minister, Emile Guiriéoulou, 20 people were killed in Thursday’s fighting, ten of them loyal to the incumbent president.
“Ten protesters and ten security force members were killed. Seven of them were killed by bullets, and three were killed after demonstrators set fire to their houses. Those who came to this supposed peaceful protest shot real bullets at the security forces”, Guiriéoulou told FRANCE 24.
However, Achi alleges that those who clashed with Ouattara’s supporters were actually Gbagbo’s presidential guard as well as Liberian mercenaries.
“They weren’t the Ivorian armed forces”, Achi said.
A deadline to cede power
Since Thursday’s violence, the US has warned President Gbagbo that he has a “limited time” to cede power to his rival Ouattara.
The United Nations Operations in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) has also mobilised 800 peacekeepers and eight tanks outside the Hotel du Golf in Abidjan, specifying that they were there not to intervene in the clashes, but to protect civilians from violence.
France has also said that it won’t interfere in Ivorian politics.