|Laurent Gbagbo (file photo)|
Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo has put parts of Ivory Coast under military rule saying heightened security is needed before scheduled October elections. The statement comes amid renewed ethnic tensions and more stalling of the disarmament process.
Mr. Gbagbo said he will appoint a military governor for the western region where ethnic tensions two weeks ago killed dozens.
Mr. Gbagbo accused unidentified fighters from the north of being behind the violence, but northern-based rebels have accused pro-Gbagbo militias intent on derailing peace efforts.
The peace process which was initiated in the former colonial power, France, in 2003 was last updated in April of this year in South Africa.
Mr. Gbagbo also said he would divide Abidjan into five military zones under the command of the defense ministry.
He said a crime wave in the commercial capital was also threatening to derail the peace process. The civil war with repeated looting rampages by supporters of Mr. Gbagbo has greatly deteriorated the economy, leading to job losses and increasing numbers of frustrated youths.
The crime spree has taken place despite military roadblocks already criss-crossing the city.
Mr. Gbagbo's statement came as U.N. Special Envoy to Ivory Coast Pierre Schori headed to New York to discuss U.N. troop reinforcements.
He said Ivory Coast is a big country and that more peacekeepers were needed to ensure security. The United Nations came under criticism for the recent violence, which happened in a government-controlled area but near a so-called zone of confidence dividing army troops from rebels.
Friday, renewed tensions were reported about 50 kilometers northeast of Abidjan, with immigrant farmers from the north saying indigenous militants were threatening to burn some of their villages.
Ethnic tensions have been soaring in different pockets of Ivory Coast as the northern rebels have continued to refuse to begin disarming, saying Mr. Gbagbo is still stalling on the peace deal. His party has refused to pass new nationality laws as well as blocked efforts to create a reformed independent electoral commission.
In line with the April Pretoria accord, Mr. Gbagbo did use presidential prerogatives to allow the popular northern opposition leader, Alassane Ouattara, to run in the October election, despite doubts over his nationality.
Rebels say they are fighting for northerners who are often treated as foreigners or second-class citizens.