Ivory Coast faces chaos, protesters vow second day march

Ivory Coast stood on the brink of chaos Friday as supporters of one of two declared presidents vowed to march for a second day.

 Ivory Coast faces chaos, protesters vow second day march

Ivory Coast stood on the brink of chaos Friday as supporters of one of two declared presidents vowed to march for a second day despite a crackdown by heavily-armed security forces.

In the Abidjan suburb of Abobo, crowds gathered shortly after dawn around the bodies of two young men, their skulls shattered by bullets, the latest victims in a battle that has left between 11 and 30 dead.

It was not clear who had killed them, but on Thursday the district had seen clashes between armed police loyal to Laurent Gbagbo and supporters of his rival Alassane Ouattara trying march on state television headquarters.

"We will continue to march. Tomorrow we will try again on (state broadcaster) RTI," a spokesman for Ouattara's rival government Patrick Achi said by telephone.

"Violence"

Gbagbo's government spokeswoman said at least 20 people were killed in street protests in the main city of Abidjan, 10 of them demonstrators and 10 security forces.

Ouattara's rival government said security forces had killed 14 protestors when they opened fire on them.

Pro-Ouattara rebels and government forces also exchanged fire in Abidjan and for hours in Tiebissou, the central town marking the line between the rebel-held north and government-held south after a 2002-3 war, witnesses said.

"I saw four killed and many wounded. They fired guns to push us back when we tried to march down the street," one protester said of live rounds fired by the military at a crowd marching to the state TV building.

Heavy weapons fire rang out around the lagoon-side hotel where Ouattara and his allies set up a parallel administration as a tense days-long stand-off with pro-Gbagbo forces deployed outside turned into a gun battle.

"There is shooting all over the place. There is artillery. There are explosions. It is all coming from the direction of the Golf Hotel," one witness said.

The violence in the world's top cocoa grower comes after incumbent Gbagbo claimed victory in a Nov. 28 poll meant to reunify the country, rejecting as fraudulent results from the electoral commission showing a Ouattara win.

"Mediation"

U.N. helicopters flew over the city as the shooting erupted. The United Nations has about 10,000 soldiers and police in the country. The force has a mandate to protect civilians but said its job was not to protect the march.

In the Nigerian capital Abuja, a top-level African Union delegation met Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, current chief of the West African bloc ECOWAS, to discuss the crisis.

African Union mediator Jean Ping, the chairman of the body's executive commission, arrived in Abidjan on Friday to try to resolve the stand-off, but both sides appeared determined to see the struggle through.

A statement issued afterwards reaffirmed the backing of both bodies for Ouattara and said the AU had agreed with the ECOWAS view that a power-sharing deal similar that reached by Kenya after disputed 2007 elections would not be acceptable.

Election commission results showed Ouattara won last month's election. But the pro-Gbagbo Constitutional Council scrapped nearly half a million votes in Ouattara bastions to hand victory to Gbagbo on grounds of fraud, causing international outrage.

"Some of this might be sending messages," one Abidjan-based diplomat said. "The key will be whether they call off tomorrow's demonstration. It is not tenable."



Agencies

Last Mod: 17 Aralık 2010, 14:46
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