Dozens of supporters of former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo were attacked and injured during a rally Sunday in Abidjan, after opponents began throwing stones.
Eric-Aimé Semien, president of the Association for Human Rights in Ivory Coast, said people from the Ivorian Popular Front were yelling criticisms of current President Allasane Ouattara when violence broke out.
“People from Gbagbo’s party were protesting, and after they began verbally attacking Ouattara, a soldier and Ouattara supporter began shooting into the air,” he said.
No deaths were reported, but United Nations troops were called in to secure the area.
Semien added this is becoming a pattern under the Ouattara government.
“It’s not the first time that protests have been suppressed," he said. "We’ve had a lot of violence from people who are claiming to support Ouattara who don’t accept people having rallies and saying bad things about him. There’s also the threat from the security forces, who are not neutral.”
The human rights advocate said Ivorians who disagree with the president are increasingly not allowed to voice their disapproval in public protests without the threat of repression.
“We’re saying that the right to protest is being threatened,” Semien added.
Former President Gbagbo refused to leave office after losing the November 2010 election to Alassane Ouattara. The stand-off between the rival sides triggered battles that left several thousand people dead. Forces supporting President Ouattara eventually captured Gbagbo and placed him under house arrest. In November, Gbagbo was transferred to The Hague, where he is currently awaiting trial for crimes against humanity allegedly committed by his army after his election defeat.