Accessibility links

Protests Stop in Ivory Coast But Militants Issue Warning


Protests against the international community have stopped in Ivory Coast after five days of violence. But supporters of President Laurent Gbagbo are vowing they will take to the streets again if they have more problems with their divided country's slowly unfolding peace process.

Traffic returned to normal, as schools, businesses and shops reopened in the main government-held city.

Motorists were confronted with vendors, rather than civilians manning roadblocks.

Violent protests began Sunday after a recommendation by an international working group that parliament, which has been blocking reforms in successive peace deals, be suspended, since its term ended last year.

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo came to Abidjan this week, saying the future of parliament should be decided by Ivorians themselves, but also that the international working group is crucial if they are to succeed with peace.

President Laurent Gbagbo is benefiting from an extended one-year mandate. The government in place though is that of transitional Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny, who was named by African mediators.

He said on state television the protests were unnecessary. He also said he would work in tandem with Mr. Gbagbo to ensure there are elections before the end of October 2006 and called for the end to partisanship.

The leader of the protests, Charles Ble Goude, told VOA it's time for protesters to return home, but that he will call them back out on the streets if northern rebels don't disarm. He spoke from an office at the state television which had been taken over by his so-called Young Patriots.

"The day I will see or I will feel the tensions is coming I will ask them to come back to the street again," Goude said. " But for the time being, I need silence in this country. I need peace. I want them to go back home and I will rely on them to respect what I did, and they will believe me."

The protests also divided parts of Abidjan, where supporters of Mr. Gbagbo, mostly from his small ethnic Bete group, are a minority like in the mostly Muslim district of Abobo.

The mayor, Adama Toungara, tells VOA tensions are high after reports there of several dead.

"There was a fight among the two groups and two people were killed. And the Young Patriots had plans to burn the mosque," the mayor noted. "I've been told the Young Patriots came several times in another quarter of Abobo where they were kicked out by the young inhabitant of that area. There's a report that needs to be confirmed that two people were killed also."

Several U.N. bases were burned down in Ivory Coast, and at least four protesters were killed in the western city of Guiglo, where violence was the most destructive. The French embassy and French barracks in Abidjan were also targeted by tire-burning and stone-throwing youths.

Protests are officially banned in Ivory Coast, and any protest against Mr. Gbagbo faces a quick crackdown, but this week, members of the military helped the protesters, and gave some militia leaders special circulation passes.

XS
SM
MD
LG