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

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go 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.
For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leadersi
X
Aru Pande
April 01, 2015 9:09 PM
The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leaders

The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Buhari: Nigeria Has ‘Embraced Democracy’

Nigeria woke up to a new president-elect Wednesday, Muhammadu Buhari. But people say democracy is the real winner as the country embarks on its first peaceful handover of power since the end of military rule in 1999. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Abuja.
Video

Video Tiny Camera Sees Inside Blood Vessels

Ahead of any surgical procedure, doctors try to learn as much as possible about the state of the organs they plan to operate on. A new camera developed in the Netherlands can now make that easier - giving surgeons an incredibly detailed look inside blood vessels, all the way to the patient’s heart. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Latin American Groups Seek Fans at Texas Music Festival

Latin American music groups played all over Austin, Texas, during the recent South by Southwest festival, and some made fans out of locals as well as people from around the world who had come to hear music. Such exposure can boost such groups' image back home. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Stockton Community, Police, Work to Improve Relations

Relations are tense between minority communities and police departments around the United States following police shootings that have generated widely-publicized protests. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Stockton, California, where police and community groups are working toward solutions, with backing from Washington.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More