- West Africa
- Ivory Coast
- Conflicts - Politics - Governance
Ivory Coast: Declaration of War or Coalition Government?
The declaration of war against civilians in Abobo neighborhood in the Ivorian capital of Abidjan by the head of the army loyal to the incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo, who is refusing to cede power despite having lost the recent election, is speculative of genocide agenda some analysts have said. And as mediation efforts continue to hit the wall, Alassane Ouattarra’s camp has invited Gbagbo to join him in a government of national coalition despite Botswana president Ian Khama’s strong condemnation of any attempts to negotiate power-sharing.
Since the beginning of December, last year, residents of the Abobo neighborhood in Abidjan have accused security forces of extrajudicial killings. They claim that Gbagbo’s men invade homes at night to kidnap and assassinate people. But Gbagbo’s camp has denied the accusations saying Alassane Ouatarra’s supporters are responsible for the death of several policemen.
According to reports, President Gbagbo had sent police to raid the Abobo neighborhood where at least four civilians were killed after they allegedly attacked and killed about five police officers. Le Temps, a local newspaper that sings support to Laurent Gbagbo, Wednesday indicated that the Abobo neighborhood had been "infiltrated by rebel elements" who laid the trap that led to the death of the police officers.
This incident propelled head of the Gbagbo-loyal army, Philippe Mangou, to declare war on the civilians. Mangou said on state television that attacks by opposition supporters on their men amounted to "acts of war." Army officers and army trucks have since been positioned at intersections for the past two days. Shots have been fired intermittently, and the Abobo civilians now under siege are worried that the army will commit abuses.
"I was lucky to have gone out around 5am. Because around 6am the whole neighbourhood had been cordoned off", Arnaud, an Abobo resident told Afrik-News.com. "The army had been strategically positioned... And as this went on, young people barricaded roads to prevent security forces from entering the area. Lots of people were unable to go to work because of that" says Djibril, another Abobo resident. "It was a tough night for us. No one was able to go to sleep. We laid awake with fear because of all the gunshots".
The firing of heavy artillery and sporadic gunshots rocked Abobo from dusk to dawn. AFP reported that several people had been killed, "victims of heavy artillery fire", according to a police source. A security agent at a bank, who sought refuge on the rooftop of the bank, was reported to have been fatally wounded by a stray bullet. Mangou has warned the international community and human rights groups that any upcoming operations are being done in self-defense; a statement that forced certain analysts to speculate genocide agenda in its tot state. Whilst he argues that his troops "reserve the right to retaliate from this moment on against any attack from wherever they may come", journalists on the ground in Abobo say they have not seen any armed civilians. “In order to find these people attacking the republic inside their hiding places, the armed forces of Ivory Coast want all human rights organization, as well as the national and international community to know that that these attacks against us are equal to acts of war ... putting us in a position of legitimate self-defense," Mangou said on state television in Ivory Coast.
But Francis Deng, UN’s special representative on genocide prevention, and Ed Luck, special representative on the responsibility to protect, have noted supporters’ incitement to hatred and violence. The UN’s special advisers are publicly raising concerns about human rights violations as well. This according to analysts translates to the possibility of the beginning of a genocide.
The UN says nearly 200 people have been killed, and others tortured, since the Nov. 28 elections. Human rights authorities of the UN have also noted disappearances, kidnappings and arrests since the disputed elections. Nearly 20,000 Ivory Coast civilians have fled to neighboring Liberia since the election Nov. 2, 2010.
Ivory Coast ambassador to the UN, Youssoufou Bamba, appointed by Alassane Ouattara had warned that the tug-of-war over the presidency was pushing the West African country to "the brink of genocide." According to Bamba, the situation is very serious, and houses have been marked according to tribal affiliation.
"Calm returns once in a while. But it is very uncertain. Security forces seem to have taken control over the situation. But from time to time, the military opens fire into the air to prevent young people from gathering. I saw two anti-riot vehicles completely burnt down Wednesday morning" said a third witness. Four police vehicles, according to another person who spoke with AFP, were on fire with four dead policemen in them. Meanwhile, Laurent Gbagbo’s camp Tuesday rejected an offer from Alassane Ouattarra to join him, as president, in a government of national coalition. The mediation talks headed by the regional economic bloc, ECOWAS, and the African Union have so far proved futile.
This comes in a backdrop of an interview given to the BBC by Botswana president, Ian Khama who argues that "the last thing we want is tomorrow we’d wake up and be told that there is some kind of power-sharing agreement between the two parties. It happened in Kenya because the elections there were also hijacked. It happened in Zimbabwe; the elections there were hijacked by the ruling party. And if that is going to happen anytime someone wants to dispute an election result, and may stay in power by default through a mechanism of power-sharing, it is wrong."
The residents of Abobo overwhelmingly voted for opposition leader Alassane Ouattara, whose victory in the Nov. 28 presidential election has been recognized by the Economic Community of West African States, African Union, United Nations, the United States, and the European Union.