News / Africa

Ivory Coast Incumbent Government Condemns French Takeover of Airport

French troops patrol a street in Abidjan on April 1, 2011.
French troops patrol a street in Abidjan on April 1, 2011.

Ivory Coast's incumbent government said Sunday that French troops had no right to take control of the airport in the commercial capital Abidjan as fighting continues between incumbent government forces and fighters loyal to the internationally-recognized winner of November's presidential election.

French troops took control of Abidjan's airport after forces previously loyal to incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo surrendered to United Nations peacekeepers. France is using the airport to evacuate foreign nationals and to bring in another 300 troops to reinforce positions in the commercial capital.

An Paris-based advisor for the Gbagbo government, Alain Toussaint, says French troops are acting like an occupation force without a mandate because the United Nations has not authorized those troops to occupy a sovereign state's airport.

Toussaint says the United States and France are not entitled to decide who will lead Ivory Coast.  He says outside support for internationally-recognized President Alassane Ouattara is only fueling the turmoil.  Toussaint says the United States and France have contributed to worsening tensions in Ivory Coast since the presidential runoff election and that they are behaving irresponsibly.

As fighting for control of Abidjan enters a fifth day, human rights groups are calling on pro-Ouattara and pro-Gbagbo forces to respect the rights of civilians.  Toussaint denies reports that fighters loyal to the incumbent president have a hit list of people they are targeting in Abidjan.

Toussaint says there is no such list circulating among those closest to Mr. Gbagbo. He says the current government does not favor those methods.

Pro-Ouattara fighters moved quickly across much of the country during the past week in their advance on Abidjan, but they do not control all of Mr. Gbagbo's main base of support in southeast provinces.

Mr. Gbagbo's security forces control the main southern border crossing with Ghana.  They turned back reporters on Sunday with shouts that French President Nicholas Sarkozy and U.S. President Barack Obama want to kill Africans for their oil.

Local officials in Ghana say they have captured nearly 70 pro-Gbagbo paramilitary troops who crossed the border with weapons.  One man who surrendered told authorities that he was stationed in the town of Adzope when Mr. Ouattara's forces attacked last week.

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