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UN Calls for Restraint in Violence Between Rival Ivorian Governments

Families flee from the Abobo district of Abidjan, February 23, 2011

Families flee from the Abobo district of Abidjan, February 23, 2011

The United Nations mission in Ivory Coast is calling for restraint from both rival governments as violence continues in neighborhoods of Abidjan that support the U.N.-certified winner of November's vote.

The U.N. mission in Ivory Coast is concerned about the level of violence in Abidjan over the last few days, as African Union heads of state met with both incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo and the U.N.-certified winner of the election, former prime minister Alassane Ouattara.

In a written statement, the U.N. mission condemned what it calls, "the inappropriate use of force," especially the use of heavy weapons. It urged all parties to "show a sense of restraint as political and diplomatic efforts are being made at the highest level to find a peaceful solution to the post-electoral crisis."

Nearly 20 people have been killed in the last few days during violence between Ouattara supporters and the pro-Gbagbo military in the Abidjan neighborhoods of Abobo and Koumassi. Among the dead are 10 soldiers that authorities say were killed in an ambush Tuesday.

The African Union panel of heads of state from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania, South Africa, and Tanzania now have one week to decide how best to end this standoff. The African Union says the decision will be legally binding on all Ivorians.

But the AU has no mechanism for enforcing its decisions, and both sides in the conflict have expressed doubts about the impact of this mediation.

Gbagbo's government says it will accept the African Union decision only if it does not challenge the legitimacy of a constitutional council finding that says Gbagbo won.

Ouattara says he is pessimistic about the AU mediation because past efforts have failed to convince Gbagbo to give up power peacefully. Ouattara's prime minister says Ivorians should expect nothing from the African Union and should instead rise up in an Egyptian-style revolt to drive Gbagbo from power.

Ouattara supporters criticized South African President Jacob Zuma after his government suggested a power-sharing interim administration ahead of new elections.

Gbagbo supporters surrounded Abidjan's airport before the African Union delegation arrived on Monday, prompting Burkinabe President Blaise Compaore to drop out of the trip because of security concerns. Gbagbo supporters say Compaore is not a neutral negotiator because of his long-standing support for Ouattara.