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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

1855 Slave Brochure Starkly Details Sale of Black Americans

Document lists entire families that were up for sale in New Orleans, offering graphic insight into the slavery trade More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs