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March 15, 2011

UN: Grenade Attack Kills One in Ivory Coast Commercial Capital

by Scott Stearns

The United Nations said a grenade attack has killed one person and wounded 18 in Ivory Coast's commercial capital, Abidjan. With violence spreading, the U.N.-certified winner of November's presidential election said he is giving the incumbent president one "last chance" to resolve the crisis peacefully.  

The United Nations mission in Ivory Coast said a UN clinic is treating 18 people, including three women and a baby, who were wounded by a grenade thrown by an unidentified person in the Attecoube neighborhood near Abidjan's central business district. A written statement said one person was killed at the scene.

The U.N. is calling on all parties to exercise restraint and stop the fighting, which it says is making it more difficult to resolve the country's political crisis.

Former prime minister Alassane Ouattara said he is offering incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo a truth and reconciliation commission, a national unity government, and a combined armed forces in a move to avoid a return to civil war.

The offer follows recommendations by the African Union, which last week certified Ouattara as the country's duly-elected president. Ouattara made the offer in a television broadcast from the Abidjan hotel where he is guarded by U.N. peacekeepers.

"To President Laurent Gbagbo, Ouattara says he would like to say that, in the best interests of the nation, it is time to abide by the will of the voters of Ivory Coast and appeals from civil society groups, religious leaders, West African leaders, the European Union, the United States, and the United Nations," said a translator of Ouattara's remarks. "Mr. Ouattara says Mr. Gbagbo must understand that for himself and his associates, this is the last chance for a peaceful and honorable exit. This, Mr. Ouattara says, is Mr. Gbagbo's personal responsibility."

Gbagbo is refusing to yield power because he maintains he was re-elected when a constitutional council of his allies annulled as fraudulent nearly 10 percent of all ballots cast.

Weeks of renewed fighting in Abidjan is now spreading from pro-Ouattara neighborhoods to pro-Gbagbo neigborhoods. There also is fighting near the Liberian  border between rebels who back Ouattara and government troops who are still loyal to Gbagbo.

In his address, Ouattara pledged to reconcile the daughters and sons of Ivory Coast.

"In keeping with the African Union decision, Mr. Ouattara says he will form a government of national unity and reconciliation that brings together the most competent people from civil society and all parties, including Mr. Gbagbo's, for the country's recovery," said a translator of Ouattara's remarks.

"Mr. Ouattara says it is imperative that Ivorians learn again how to live together in peace. In this spirit, he says he will encourage dialogue among all political leaders to maintain an atmosphere of confidence and peace and make reforms to consolidate democracy," said a translator of Ouattara's remarks.

"Mr. Ouattara says reconciliation in Ivory Coast must be accompanied by forgiveness and mutual respect. But in order to properly honor the memory of those killed in this political violence and ensure their families' compensation, he says a truth and reconciliation commission will be put in place as quickly as possible," said a translator of Ouattara's remarks.

The United Nations says post-electoral violence has killed more than 400 people. Human Rights Watch says a three-month campaign of organized violence by soldiers and militia loyal to Gbagbo may constitute war crimes.