3 killed as Gbagbo forces disperse rally
Abidjan – Security forces loyal to Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo opened fire at a rally of several hundred supporters of his rival Alassane Ouattara, killing three youths, witnesses said Saturday.
Gbagbo’s security forces in the capital’s Abobo district, a stronghold of Ouattara, “fired into the crowd leaving people running for cover but they chased them”, a resident said.
“Three youths were shot dead” in front of the town hall, and several others wounded, the witness said, the toll confirmed by two witnesses. Riots in the same district killed at least a dozen FDS members since January.
The pro-Gbagbo forces also fired tear gas at several hundred mostly young protesters in the Koumassi neighborhood of Abidjan, preventing them from marching to Inch’Allah square, an AFP photographer reported.
The square was later completely surrounded by dozens of FDS security forces.
Protesters had earlier thrown rubbish in the streets, setting up barricades made of tables and flaming tyres.
“They will have to kill us all today, we will not accept this because Alassane won the elections!” one of the protesters said.
The west African country has been in political and economic crisis since the November 28 presidential election, which most of the international community recognised as won by Ouattara. At least 300 people were killed in the unrest, the United Nations said in a report this week.
Ivorians urged to start revolution
Gbagbo has refused to quit power, despite strong domestic and foreign pressure. He has ruled the country, which was divided by conflict from 2002, since 2000.
Although rallies were quashed in Abidjan, demonstrators took to the streets in the north as well as in the large cities of Korhogo, Odienne, Ferkessedougou and Man.
Outtara’s prime minister, former rebel chief Guillaume Soro, urged Ivorians to “start a revolution” as seen in Tunisia and Egypt, which over the past month forced their longtime rulers to step down.
Tensions rose this week after a run on banks that led Gbagbo to announce on Thursday he would take control of affiliates of French banks Societe Generale and BNP Paribas. On Friday security forces loyal to Gbagbo were deployed outside the banks.
As Ouattara’s supporters made plans for a series of demonstrations around the country this weekend, Gbagbo on Friday also issued a decree extending a night-time curfew for the next three days.
A mission by five African presidents to break the political impasse is set to take place on Monday and has received a strong endorsement from UN secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
The panel representing Africa’s five regions is chaired by President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz of Mauritania and includes Jacob Zuma of South Africa, Idriss Deby of Chad, Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania and Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso.
The African presidents were to meet on Sunday in the Mauritanian capital with a team of experts chosen by the panel who have compiled a report with proposals on how to solve the political and economic crisis in Ivory Coast.
After the Nouakchott meeting, the five heads of state along with African Union and United Nations representatives would go to Abidjan to present the report to Gbagbo and Ouattara.
They then have until the end of February to come up with “binding” resolutions.