Ivory Coast civil war could destabilize region

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A few days after Mr. Alassane Ouattara announced the formation of a new army, the Republican Forces of Côte d’Ivoire, elements close to Mr. Gbagbo have called for a massive enlistment into the army loyal to the outgoing president. As thousands enlist to fight and several thousands flee Côte d’Ivoire into neighboring countries, the U.N has warned that “the risks of destabilizing the region are enormous”.

Young men loyal to President Laurent Gbagbo have enlisted in the army to battle New Forces rebels loyal to Mr. Alassane Ouattara, the man recognized as winner of last year’s elections in Ivory Coast. New forces ex-rebels have seized five cities and are spreading their control. Young men at the army base in the city of Abidjan were reported to be chanting slogans such as “the rebels will die”.

This comes days less than a week after internationally recognized president elect, Mr. Alassane Ouattara, announced the formation of a new army, the Republican Forces of Côte d’Ivoire (FRCI), to a group of diplomats and officials.

Sensing the rising influence of the New Forces who have declared to fight to install Mr. Ouattara, a key ally of Mr. Gbagbo, Charles Blé Goudé called on young men to join the Ivory Coast army and fight Mr. Outtara’s forces.

And despite a symbolic separation of rebel forces, Forces Nouvelles (FN), from the future army, following Mr. Ouatarra’s decision not to invite FN officials to the launching of the FRCI, observers say that the mass enlistment into the army controlled by Mr. Gbagbo, the outgoing president, could be as a result of the FN’s growing influence.

Mr. Goudé who was appointed by Mr. Gbagbo as youth minister, urged his supporters to join the army and “liberate” the country – the New Forces still control northern areas.

Mr Goude’s who is under UN sanctions for previously inciting violence called young men to join the government army after reports claimed the current Ivorian armed forces numbered only about 50,000. Mr. Goudé’s Young Patriots militia has set up road blocks around Abidjan in recent weeks forcing over 400,000 people to flee Abidjan.

Government forces have been accused of shelling a market in a pro-Ouattara district of Abidjan which killed 25 people- an action that analysts say constitutes a crime against humanity.

“The risks of destabilizing the region are enormous, and could affect countries across West Africa,” UNHCR head Antonio Guterres told the BBC‘s Network Africa program.

The UN refugee agency says the fighting between the New Forces and government forces has resulted in several deaths with over 90,000 people reported to have run to neighboring Liberia and Ghana. So far, more than 435 people have been killed since the November election.

Meanwhile, French government sources Monday said that they “hope to achieve an outcome” from “discussions, negotiations and influence games that are being deployed around the Ivorian case”. According to Henri Guaino, special adviser to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the departure of Laurent Gbaggbo, outgoing president of Côte d’Ivoire, is “on track“.

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