Friday, April 01, 2011

Cote d'Ivoire battle moves to the capitol

Military forces loyal to Cote d'Ivoire election winner Alassane Ouattara are advancing on the capitol Abidjan. Once there, a heavy violent battle will begin between them and the forces behind Laurent Gbagbo. The Ivory Coast President Gbagbo lost an election last fall but has been fighting to stay in power ever since. The armed actions of the two political leaders have caused a massive humanitarian crisis in the country. The crisis will only get worse when fighting begins in the capital city as many residents will be in harms way.

Reuters is reporting that the African Union has finally called on Laurent Gbagbo to step down. It does appear he will have to be forced out in bloody fashion as he has thus far not stepped away peacefully.

The best update on the humanitarian angle of the story comes again from Amnesty international. The human rights organization is calling on the international community to protect the people in the capitol city.

“Abidjan is on the brink of a human right catastrophe and total chaos,” said Salvatore Saguès, Amnesty International’s researcher on West Africa.

“Côte d’Ivoire is facing a major humanitarian crisis. The parties to the conflict must immediately stop targeting the civilian population,” said Salvatore Saguès. “The international community must take immediate steps to protect the civilian population.”

Since the beginning of the week, the Republican Forces loyal to internationally recognised president Alassane Ouattara have launched a general offensive against the forces loyal to outgoing president Laurent Gbagbo, who has refused to cede power.

As the Republican Forces advance in the west and in the centre of the country, violence has escalated.

A recent flashpoint has been in the town of Guiglo, 600 km west of Abidjan, where sources have told Amnesty International that uncontrolled armed elements loyal to Laurent Gbagbo, including Liberian mercenaries, burned and looted houses, and shot and wounded several civilians yesterday.

“The escalation of this conflict, and increased reliance on mercenaries and untrained recruits, means there is a huge and immediate risk of massive human rights violations in the coming days as the Republican Forces advance on Abidjan,” said Salvatore Saguès.

On 19 March, Gbagbo's minister for youth Charles Blé Goudé, called on Gbagbo’s Young Patriot movement members to volunteer as militiamen to ‘liberate’ the country. The Young Patriots have announced that they have recruited 20,000 soldiers.

Amnesty International has also received reports of retribution attacks against civilians committed by both sides in the western town of Duékoué.

Local sources have told Amnesty International’s delegation currently in Côte d’Ivoire that dead bodies are still lying in the streets of Duékoué, and tens of thousands of civilians are still sheltering in the Catholic Mission without adequate food, water, sanitation and medical care.

On 29 March, the Republican Forces killed civilian Jean Louana, election campaign director of one of the current ministers appointed by Laurent Gbagbo. They also shot down a Pastor of an evangelical church along with eight members of his congregation.

No comments: