While the United Nations suspects Laurent Gbagbo of flouting an arms embargo in an effort to rebuild his air force, suspicions of weapons acquisition also weigh on the Ouattara government. Meanwhile, the post-election violence which began in Abidjan after the contested 28 November 2010 presidential elections has spread to other parts of the country. UN fears a return to civil war.
The fear of civil war is palpable in Côte d’Ivoire. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Monday called for an emergency meeting amid fears that the post-election violence that began in December is quickly spreading to other parts of the country.
Ban Ki-Moon’s appeal came after Belarus delivered attack helicopters to incumbent Laurent Gbagbo in the latter’s bid to retain power despite a seven year UN arms embargo. The shipment include three attack helicopters and equipment.
According to Ban Ki-moon’s the entourage, “The first delivery arrived reportedly on a flight which landed this (Monday) evening and additional flights are scheduled for tomorrow (Tuesday). This is a serious violation of the embargo against Ivory Coast which has been in place since 2004”.
Ban Ki-Moon’s spokesman warns that “The secretary-general demands full compliance with the arms embargo and warns both the supplier of this military equipment and Mr. Gbagbo that appropriate action will be taken in response to the violation.”
Radio France Internationale (RFI) said that the Gbagbo government had denied the report. But if this were true, it would mean that Gbagbo is trying to rebuild his fighter aircraft destroyed by the French military operation, Licorne, in 2004.
According to VOA “Mr. Gbagbo’s spokesman also denies the accusation, calling it a “lie” to justify an attack against the Gbagbo government by U.N. peacekeepers who he says are backing rebels who support the U.N.-certified winner of November’s presidential vote, former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara.”
Citing independent sources, RFI says that both Gbagbo and Ouattarra have began engaging in an arms race. “In fact, the two opposing military forces are arming themselves, everyone is preparing for a direct confrontation but nobody wants to recognize it,” reads an article on RFI’s website.
“Invisible Commando” real urban battle
Meanwhile, violent clashes have increased in the country. Several people were killed Saturday when the Forces de défense et de sécurité (FDS), loyal to Laurent Gbagbo and opposition elements clashed in Abobo, a district in northern Abidjan, considered as one of Alassane Ouattara’s strongholds.
A centre that houses the country’s state television (RTI) transmitter and run by pro-Laurent Gbagbo forces was damaged during the clashes, causing an interruption of television signal in the Abidjan area. The damages have reportedly been repaired.
Dubbed as the “invisible commando” by a part of the Ivorian press, the so-called rebels are reportedly armed with Kalashnikovs and rocket launchers.
The “invisible commando” are said to have infiltrated the army upon the creation of Les Forces Nouvelles (FN), a program which saw the merging of the country’s divided army, those from the ranks of former rebel leader and later Prime Minister under Gbagbo, Guillaume Soro, and on the other hand, government forces loyal to Gbagbo.
Guillaume Soro, who is now Prime Minister of the Ouattara government has denied any involvement in the fighting.
ONUCI in the crossfire
Last week, other clashes were reported in Yamoussoukro, the country’s capital. The UN has expressed fears that a spillover could result in a civil war. A situation that could prove difficult to handle. The UN mission in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) accuses pro-Gbagbo elements of hindering their efforts. Sunday, UNOCI reported that three peacekeepers had been wounded in an ambush in Abobo.
Yesterday, AFP reported that “Youths loyal to Ivory Coast incumbent Laurent Gbagbo” had “kidnapped two Ukranian mechanics working for the United Nations mission on Monday morning but released them later in the afternoon, a spokesman said.”
This came after Charles Ble Goude, leader of a pro-Gbagbo movement, the Young Patriots, met with nearly 3,000 people in Yopougon (west of Abidjan) on Friday and called on them to impede the movement of peacekeepers in the country.
“I ask the youth of Ivory Coast to organize committees to impede the movement of UNOCI by all means possible (…) Today it is not the rebels who are at war with us, it is UNOCI ,” he said.
Saturday, in a statement issued after a ministerial council, the Gbagbo government had accused UNOCI of siding with rebel forces and allowing them to infiltrate into the districts of Abidjan. A charge denied by Ban Ki-moon who demanded the immediate cessation of threats.
The panel of heads of state mandated by the African Union to find “binding solutions” to the crisis are expected to present their proposals this week.
Analysts believe that the four presidents, Jacob Zuma (South Africa), Idriss Deby (Chad), Jikaya Kikwete (Tanzania) and Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz (Mauritania), will suggest two options: either a power sharing between or the organization of a new poll.