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

Photogallery Strong Words Start, May End, S. African Xenophobic Attacks

President Jacob Zuma publicly condemned rise in attacks on foreign nationals but critics say leadership has been less than welcoming to foreign residents More

Video Family Waits to Hear Charges Against Reporter Jailed in Iran

Reports in Iran say Jason Rezaian has been charged with espionage, but brother tells VOA indictment has not been made public More

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Action to Stabilize Libya

Amnesty International says multinational concerted humanitarian effort must be enacted to address crisis; decrepit boats continue to bring thousands of new arrivals daily 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.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs