Accessibility links

Breaking News

Ivory Coast Cracks Down on Protests Against Unity Government - 2003-07-08

Police in Ivory Coast have started a crackdown on protests against a national unity government that is slowly trying to establish itself. The crackdown follows last week's agreement between the army and northern-based rebels to formally end the country's nine-month civil war.

Police have used tear gas several times this week to disperse protesters trying to enter the national television compound in Abidjan. On Monday, demonstrators overran several market stalls and threw rocks while running away from police.

This was in marked contrast to a protest last month when militants entered the compound without resistance and destroyed parts of the television building while rebel-leader turned communications minister, Guillaume Soro, paid his first visit.

Those protests led to the firing of the television's director, Georges Aboke, for lax security. Mr. Aboke is a loyalist of President Laurent Gbagbo from the south. Mr. Soro immediately named Fatoumata Traore, a politician from the north, as his replacement.

One protester, Yapo Aman, said he is against her appointment, because she is from the north, which remains under rebel control. "We do not really want that lady to be the head of this television because she was the one who was denigrating this country, so we want her not to be here because that situation is really bad for this country and we do not want her at the television. That is why I am telling this morning all my people to go to there and demonstrate to show that all the Ivorian country is up to kick her out of this country," he explained.

Meanwhile, there were protests outside the office of the reconciliation Prime Minister Seydou Diarra.

Several hundred students demanded the reopening of universities in rebel-held zones and new measures to help displaced students. But there was a heavy police presence to contain any threatened outbreak of violence.

After declaring the end of the war Friday, the army and rebels called on youth militants in southern Ivory Coast to also work for peace and reconciliation.

The rebels started their insurgency in September, saying they were fighting for northerners and immigrants who often feel like second-class citizens.