ABIDJAN, IVORY COAST: Ivory Coast braced for possible bloodshed on Thursday, as supporters of the man the world recognizes as this volatile country’s president-elect prepared for a showdown in the streets with security forces loyal to the incumbent who refuses to step down.
The longtime opposition leader, Mr Alassane Ouattara whose election victory has been acknowledged by the UN, US, France and the African Union has called on his backers to help him take control of state institutions. They have vowed to march to the national television station to install a new state television chief. The TV building, however, is heavily protected by incumbent Mr Laurent Gbagbo’s troops, and violent confrontation is likely if the two sides meet.
“The risk for yet more bloodshed and senseless loss of life … is extremely high,” said Mr Corinne Dufka, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch based in Dakar, Senegal. “All those concerned must do all they can to prevent this scenario; soldiers and police must be given explicit orders to use restraint and minimum use of force; and the UN must stand ready to fulfill their mandate to protect those being threatened with violence.”
On Wednesday, the UN Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki-moon warned the politically charged environment could spark a new civil war. A long-delayed presidential election was held recently to unite the country and begin a new era, but the top-two finishers both claim the presidency and the vote has fueled profound fears of new unrest.
The UN spokesperson, Mr Martin Nesirky said Mr Ban is “deeply concerned” about the electoral stalemate in the West African nation and warned violence at this time “could have unpredictable consequences, including re-igniting civil war.”
Mr Ouattara also plans a second march on Friday to take back other government buildings and hold a cabinet meeting. For now, he governs from a hotel guarded by supporters and UN troops.
In a message read on state television recently, the Gbagbo-backed army warned Mr Ouattara’s supporters not to participate in Thursday’s march. The military spokesperson, Mr Hilaire Gouhourou claimed the army had proof that the UN peacekeeping mission supported it, and said the army would hold the UN envoy, Mr Choi Young-jin responsible should violence occur.
People should “abstain from such a perilous undertaking,” Mr Gouhourou warned.