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Ivorian Opposition Denounces Gbagbo, Calls for More Protest

Several dozens of Ivorian opposition youth clash with police during a demonstration in Abidjan against the dissolution of Ivorian cabinet and electoral commission, 17 Feb 2010

Opposition members have dismissed Mr. Gbagbo's fraud accusations against the electoral commission and his dissolution of the government as an attempt to stall presidential elections to remain in power.

Ivorian opposition leaders renewed their condemnation Friday of President Laurent Gbagbo's dissolution of the government and electoral commission last week and continue to call on their supporters to demonstrate.

Ivory Coast has now been without a government for more than a week, since President Gbagbo dissolved it and the independent electoral commission last Friday.

His actions further deepened a political crisis over alleged fraud in the country's voter list and threaten to push back the country's long-delayed presidential elections.

The prime minister said Thursday the president had agreed to give him until Saturday to declare a new government.

The RHDP coalition, which includes main opposition candidates Alassane Ouattara and Henri Konan Bédié, says it no longer recognizes Mr. Gbagbo as president and it will not negotiate with the prime minister until the original electoral commission is reinstated.

Frustration over the current political crisis and increased electricity cuts have erupted into demonstrations around Ivory Coast.

Opposition leaders renewed their call to supporters to take to the streets in protest of what they called Friday "the dictatorship of Mr. Laurent Gbagbo."

Opposition candidate, Henri Konan Bédié, says the RHDP calls on all militants, supporters and all those who support peace, justice and freedom to unite and block by all means necessary the dictatorship of our opponents and the illegal measures taken by Mr. Gbagbo that, Bédié says, have disqualified him as Ivorian head of state.

In Mr. Gbagbo's hometown, Gagnoa, in central Ivory Coast, members of Ivory Coast's opposition say at least five protesters were killed and several wounded Friday when security forces opened fire on what the state said was an unauthorized protest.

Thousands have taken to the streets in the last week. Though the protests have remained for the most part peaceful, some have turned violent, marked by vandalism and protestors blocking roads and burning tires.

Ivory Coast's military chief, General Philippe Mangou, says the security forces completely disapprove of, what he called, the opposition's irresponsible and intolerable calls for protests. He says the security forces therefore hold the opposition and its leader responsible and says they should be prepared for a response.

Opposition members have dismissed Mr. Gbagbo's fraud accusations against the electoral commission and his dissolution of the government as an attempt to stall presidential elections to remain in power.

In Friday's statement, the opposition said Mr. Gbagbo's actions amount to a hijacking of the electoral process and a denouncement of Ouagadougou peace accords, which allowed Mr. Gbagbo to remain president in a transitional, power-sharing government.

Opposition candidate, Alassane Ouattara, says it is clear to the opposition that the president's decisions were arbitrary, unjustified, and unacceptable. He says Mr. Gbagbo and his supporters, in making these decisions, have exposed themselves to United Nations sanctions. He says he is calling on the international community, particularly the U.N. Security Council. He says they need to stop creating resolutions if they are not going to apply them.

Ivorian opposition members also continue to call for elections in March, the announcement of a new poll date, and the publication of the definitive voter list.

The presidential poll is an attempt to find a lasting political solution to nearly a decade of internal conflict, but it has been pushed back several times since Mr. Gbagbo's mandate ran out in 2005.

The New Forces, the former rebel faction to the North, have warned that current political unrest could once again plunge the country into civil war.