News / Africa

Gbagbo Backers Threaten Opposition at Abidjan Hotel

A UN soldier stands guard outside the Golf Hotel in Abidjan, 30 Dec 2010
A UN soldier stands guard outside the Golf Hotel in Abidjan, 30 Dec 2010
Anne Look

A militant youth leader for incumbent Ivorian president, Laurent Gbagbo, is calling on supporters to seize the Abidjan hotel currently serving as a base for U.N.-endorsed election winner, Alassane Ouattara.

The United Nations and much of the international community say Ivorian opposition leader, Alassane Ouattara, won last month's presidential poll. Incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo, refuses to step down despite international sanctions, mounting diplomatic pressure and threats of regional military action.

Gbagbo minister and leader of the militant group, the "Young Patriots," Charles Ble Goude, told an Ivorian newspaper Thursday that Mr. Ouattara has until January 1st to leave the Abidjan hotel where Mr. Ouattara has set up his rival government under the protection of U.N. peacekeepers and former rebel fighters.

Ble Goude, who has urged supporters to fight to the death to keep Mr. Gbagbo in power, is calling for a "bare-handed" attack on the hotel.

Like Mr. Gbagbo, Ble-Goude accuses foreigners of threatening Ivory Coast's sovereignty.

Addressing a rally in Abidjan Wednesday, Ble-Goude says outside military intervention would be suicide for Africa. He says he hopes wisdom will prevail and emotions will be set aside in the interest of Africa. He says we want to find a solution but, as we have been saying since 2002, it is not a military solution. He says the only way is negotiation.

Analysts, however, say the window for a diplomatic solution is narrowing.

An ECOWAS delegation gave Mr. Gbagbo an ultimatum Tuesday that he leave peacefully or be removed by force, but returned to Abuja empty-handed with more talks planned for Monday.

Many doubt West African nations have the logistical capabilities, troops or political will for a military intervention and worry that any attempt at a forceful removal could trigger open conflict and reprisals on West African nationals living in Ivory Coast.

Ble-Goude held his rally in the same Abidjan neighborhood where a U.N. peacekeeper was injured Tuesday when a large crowd attacked a U.N. convoy with machetes.

U.N. peacekeeping chief, Alain LeRoy, says he is concerned by declarations broadcast on Gbagbo-controlled state television that the U.N. says are aimed at inciting violence against the U.N. mission in Ivory Coast. He says Tuesday's attack was a direct result of the appeals to hatred, lies and anti-U.N. propaganda on state TV.

The United Nations says its 10,000-member peacekeeping force will remain in Ivory Coast, despite Mr. Gbagbo's demands it withdraw.

The United Nations says post-electoral violence has killed more than 170 people.

Human rights groups accuse armed groups loyal to Mr. Gbagbo of extra-judicial killings, kidnappings and torture since the election, though Mr. Gbagbo's camp denies the allegations.

Youssoufou Bamba is Mr. Ouattara's newly appointed Ivory Coast ambassador to the United Nations.

"The real concern of President Ouattara regarding the situation of human rights, as you know there is a massive violation of human rights between the 16th and 21st," Bamba said. "172 people killed only because they want to demonstrate, they want to speak out, they want to defend the will of the people. We think it's unacceptable. Thus, one of the messages I try to get across during the conversations I have conducted so far, is to tell we are on the brink of genocide. Something should be done."

Many fear the tense political gridlock could re-ignite a 2002-2003 civil war.

The United States has begun planning for the evacuation of its embassy in Abidjan should widespread conflict break out.

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