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Ouattara Concerned over Political Violence in Abidjan

South African president Jacob Zuma (C), flanked by South African ambassador to Ivory Coast Lallie Ntombizodwa (R), shakes hands with African Union representative to Ivory Coast Ambroise Niyonsaba (L) as he arrivesat Abidjan international airport on Februa

An official of Ivorian President-elect Alassane Ouattara’s government said the leader is expressing deep concern about the ongoing violence following clashes between pro-Ouattara supporters and partisans of embattled President Laurent Gbagbo in the commercial capital, Abidjan.

Patrich Achi, Minister of Infrastructure and Ouattara spokesman, told VOA the violence could force Gbagbo to step down and cede power since, in his words, previous efforts by the international community, including African leaders, to resolve the political stalemate have failed.

“President Ouattara has always been concerned about violence in general and violence in Abidjan in particular. Since the 28th of November (2010), when he won the election, followers of Gbagbo put forward violence hoping that it will finally bring him to accept that former President Gbagbo stays and he doesn’t leave the power. But, this is not possible and it will never happen, ever.” said Achi.

Wednesday, witnesses reported rounds of gunfire and heavy weapons explosions in the volatile Abidjan neighborhood of Abobo. Tuesday, unidentified gunmen killed 10 troops loyal to Gbagbo, where most residents back Ouattara.

“We think that the people in the stronghold of Abobo are the ones that suffer the most from this violence; and they are organizing themselves to resist the (national army); and they have been resisting so far and they are getting stronger and stronger again. I don’t think that the army of Gbagbo that goes there will be able to control the area.”

Gbagbo has so far refused to step down, despite increasing international pressure and threats of “legitimate force” to remove him from power.

Achi said Gbagbo is to blame for the ongoing violence in Abidjan.

“The way the (violence) has started, if it gets to other areas in Abidjan, we might be surprised that, in the next few weeks, former President Gbagbo won’t be to control the city of Abidjan anymore, because people get afraid and frightened; but, at a certain point, they cannot just stand there and be killed every day. I’m afraid violence is going to raise up a little bit and, hopefully, it will make former President Gbagbo to quit office because that is what everybody is waiting for now,” said Achi.

“After all these talks and delegations to find out a peaceful solution, still, he (Gbagbo) wants to stay there, and the economy is going bad, companies are closing, (and) people are out of jobs. This is terrible.”

Achi also said Ouattara is so far pleased with the latest efforts of the African Union to help resolve the political stalemate after its delegation met both rivals.

A team of four African heads of state met with the two presidents separately in Abidjan this week as part of an effort to end the standoff.

The African Union panel will next make a ruling on how the impasse should end. The AU says the panel’s decisions will be legally binding. However, the 53-nation bloc has no way of enforcing those decisions.

Since the disputed election, dozens of Ouattara supporters have been killed or disappeared. The United Nations says post-election violence has killed some 300 people and driven tens of thousands of refugees into neighboring Liberia.