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Ivory Coast Youth Leader Says He Is Not Afraid of Sanctions


The militant leader of the so-called Young Patriots in Ivory Coast faces possible sanctions this week at the United Nations Security Council for blocking his divided country's peace process. But, in an interview with VOA, Charles Ble Goude says sanctions do not bother him and that he plans to organize more protests.

A U.N. special committee is expected to draw up a list of names for sanctions in Ivory Coast as early as late Wednesday, after which there will be a 48-hour window for Security Council members to raise objections.

This means expected travel and asset sanctions could be announced later this week.

Journalists and foreign diplomats usually hypothesize about just one person - Charles Ble Goude, the leader of the pro-presidential Young Patriots. He led protests last month in which southern and western government-held cities were paralyzed, dozens of U.N. vehicles were smashed, bases were overrun and offices of aid agencies were burned down.

This followed a recommendation by an international working group that the Ivorian parliament, which has blocked reforms in successive peace deals and is already serving beyond its elected mandate, be discontinued.

Speaking to VOA, from one of the few remaining posh cafes of Abidjan, with a spewing fountain in the background, Ble Goude says he is not afraid at all of possible sanctions.

"I don't care. Believe me, I don't care, at all," he said.

But he is concerned about the Security Council's understanding of the Ivorian conflict.

"What is the U.N. going to sanction and why are they going to sanction Ble Goude? Because Ble Goude is demonstrating in the streets peacefully in front of the French embassy by a hunger strike? Now, what are they going to sanction? Because, this is a peaceful way, there is no more peaceful way than a hunger strike," he said. "So, I wonder what they are going to sanction?"

During the protests, Bangladeshi peacekeepers fired back at an angry crowd, killing five people in Guiglo. In the ensuing chaos, peacekeepers fled from their bases in parts of the government-held west.

Ble Goude says peacekeepers should not be sent back, if punitive measures against them are not taken.

"It depends on what they are going to do. You know what happened. They killed people and I don't think people are ready to accept them so now the U.N. have to put sanctions on those who killed our friends before the U.N. troops come back," added Goude.

Most non-essential civilian U.N. staff have been evacuated for an extended beach holiday, with sporadic meetings in the Gambia.

Ble Goude also says he does not understand the role of the French rapid reaction force, saying he sees French soldiers going to nightclubs, while northern Ivory Coast remains rebel-held.

While others focus on possible sanctions, Ble Goude has set a deadline of February 12 for the transitional prime minister, Charles Konan Banny, to establish a timeline for disarming rebels, or else he says there will be more protests.

Mr. Banny has said he will follow his own course and that disarmament also concerns militias and new army recruits. For three years, rebels have said they will not disarm until reforms give more northerners the right to vote.

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