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Ivory Coast Pre-Election Violence Erupts - 2002-06-26

Tensions have erupted in Ivory Coast ahead of upcoming regional elections. At least three people were killed in clashes Tuesday between supporters of the ruling party and opposition supporters in the central city of Daloa.

Concern that violence may escalate ahead of the July 7 poll has prompted Ivory Coast military officials to put troops on standby alert in the Daloa region.

Residents say the fighting broke out after supporters of the opposition Rally of the Republicans party, RDR, threw rocks at supporters of the ruling Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) who were starting a meeting.

The Rally of the Republicans Party, headed by former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara, is often identified here as the party of Muslims. A high-ranking party official on Wednesday told VOA that RDR supporters had felt insulted because the FPI's gathering was held near a mosque in Daloa, and worshippers could hear FPI militants shouting epithets at RDR supporters.

The confrontation Tuesday came one day after RDR members clashed with supporters of former military ruler Robert Guei in the western city of Man.

Tensions have been high in Ivory Coast ahead of next month's regional elections. Among other things, voters have complained of the government's lack of preparation for the poll, and of confusion surrounding the issuance of new voter registration cards.

RDR supporters have expressed anger that the government has yet to issue Alassane Ouattara a certificate of nationality. The former prime minister was barred from running in the last presidential elections in the year 2000 due to what the government said were doubts of whether he is an Ivorian national.

Scores of people were killed nearly two years ago when RDR supporters took the streets demanding new elections in which Mr. Ouattara would be allowed to run.