News / Africa

Troops Surround Hotel of Internationally-Recognized Winner of Ivory Coast Vote

A United Nations soldier walks in the courtyard of the Golf Hotel, where opposition leader Alassane Ouattara was meeting with African leaders, Abidjan, Ivory Coast, 03 Jan 2011
A United Nations soldier walks in the courtyard of the Golf Hotel, where opposition leader Alassane Ouattara was meeting with African leaders, Abidjan, Ivory Coast, 03 Jan 2011

Ivory Coast's disputed election has produced two rival presidents who head two competing governments. But only one of those leaders occupies the presidential palace. The other is in a resort hotel protected by U.N. peacekeepers. Most of the world leaders now recognize the Abidjan hotel as the country's seat of power.

With government troops surrounding the Golf Hotel, the only way civilians get in or out is by helicopter.

A Ukrainian crew pilots the five-minute U.N. flight carrying daily newspapers and mail, cartons of milk and cases of water, a box of printer cartridges, and the men and women who clean the hotel and pump its sewage.

The Russian-made helicopter circles Abidjan's main lagoon, coming to rest on a makeshift landing pad in the hotel's back lawn.

This is the center of government for Alassane Ouattara, the man who Ivory Coast's electoral commission and most of the international community recognize as the duly-elected president. But incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo is not giving up power because his allies on the constitutional council annulled enough ballots to put him ahead of Mr. Ouattara.

That has led to a standoff between rival governments with Mr. Gbagbo's Cabinet shuffling between downtown ministries and Mr. Ouattara's Cabinet confined to the Golf Hotel.

Mr. Ouattara's press people work out of the general manager's office. Political supporters play cards in the near-empty lobby where the cash machine is empty, the travel agency is closed and waiters give change with paper credit slips because there is a shortage of small bills.

Keith Edward is a legal counselor to Mr. Ouattara.

"Even though you are within the city, you still do not know what is going on in an environment where you have a lot of information that is difficult to verify," Edward said.

Edward checked-in to the Golf before November's vote when people moved freely. He says the army's blockade has been hardest on people with family on the other side.

"Most of the people here live in the city,” he added. “So they have family members, kids, husbands, spouses on the other side of the bridge and there is no physical connection except, thank God, they do have a good cell phone system in this country."

Mr. Gbagbo's foreign minister Alcide Djedje says the Golf Hotel is not a prison.

Djedje says the blockade is meant to protect Ivorians and diplomats who live near the hotel.

Ouattara supporter Allomo Kouassi has not left the hotel in over one month, but agrees it is not prison. He says the prisoner in Ivory Coast is Laurent Gbagbo.

Kouassi says everyone in the hotel has one objective, that Mr. Gbagbo leave power. As for eating or not eating, Kouassi says they will eat well tomorrow. Their objective now is to lift all the barriers. And for them, he says, the barrier for Ivory Coast is Laurent Gbagbo.

Djedje says Mr. Gbagbo would gladly lift the blockade if not for the more than 300 heavily-armed rebels who are living at the hotel.

Djedje says the military can not allow those rebels free movement when they are less than a five-minute boat ride from Mr. Gbagbo's residence.

Two rebels play a board game on the patio where women sell phone cards at a 10-percent mark-up. Senegalese peacekeepers do laundry by the pool, their clothes drying across plastic lounge chairs circling the now-deserted pool bar. A Pakistani officer leads soldiers and civilians in daily prayers near a long, white U.N. tent.

A still-uniformed hotel groundskeeper mows tall grass around rows of peacekeepers' camouflaged tents. Armored personnel carriers block the front entrance. Sandbagged machine-gun placements crowd the outside stairs. Stacked rows of concertina ring the narrow marsh at the edge of the lagoon.

Gbagbo supporters derisively refer to Mr. Ouattara's hotel as La Republique de Golf, implying that his influence extends no farther than the soldiers surrounding it.

But legal counsel Edward says the two sides of Abidjan's political divide are more similar than most people think.

"Miscommunication is a major fact,” said Edward. “And due to the miscommunication, that influences the behavior of the people on both sides. More than once I have seen females crying because they think their child has disappeared or the family crying on the other side because they are thinking that bombs just fell on us."

At dusk on the hotel's back lawn, there is a football [soccer] match between Jordanian peacekeepers and Ivorian rebels. They may be protecting the same man, but on the pitch there is plenty of pushing.

The head of U.N. peacekeeping wants to boost this force during the next few weeks. But Mr. Gbagbo says everyone, including these nearly 800 soldiers guarding Mr. Ouattara's hotel, must leave Ivory Coast as he no longer has confidence in their neutrality because they are protecting his rival.

You May Like

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs