Reported clashes in Abidjan – 22 Feb

Reported new clashes in Abidjan while waiting for indications from African mediators

Abidjan (Agenzia Fides) – The tension seems to be rising in Côte d’Ivoire, meanwhile the mediation mission from the African Union is leaving the Country. According to local sources, yesterday, 22 February, there were several deaths in an ambush on security forces linked to outgoing President, Laurent Gbagbo, by an armed group close to President-elect, Alassane Ouattara. The incident occurred in the district of Abobo, in the north of Abidjan, the administrative capital of Côte d’Ivoire.

“In recent days there have been clashes, until recently we heard gunshots in the vicinity of the city centre. The shops are open and there is life on the streets, but we are aware of the widespread climate of tension,” reveals a source of the local Church to Fides who for security reasons wishes to remain anonymous. The political crisis erupted after incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo’s refusal to recognise the victory of Alassane Ouattara in the second round of presidential elections on 28 November.

“On the political and diplomatic front the situation remains complex. If we just think about the fact that of the five Heads of State who were scheduled to come to Côte d’Ivoire for the mediation mission entrusted to them by the African Union, only four arrived, because the supporters of Gbagbo did not accept the presence of the President of Burkina Faso,” says our source. “So Gbagbo’s supporters protested so as to prevent his arrival and somehow they achieved it. Ouattara’s supporters, on the other hand, do not accept the presence of the South African President, as seen in preliminary meetings with Ouattara’s party. Interestingly, it has created a polarisation among African States between those who support those Gbagbo and those who support Ouattara, who is still recognised as the legitimate President by much of the international community.

The AU delegation was composed of Presidents: Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz (Mauritania), Jacob Zuma (South Africa), Idriss Deby Itno (Chad) and Jikaya Kikwete (Tanzania). All four met with both Gbagbo and Ouattara and presented them with a proposal to share power or to call new elections. On this point, an official statement is expected from the group of mediators.

“The problem is that the population is divided almost 50/50 between Gbagbo and Ouattara, regardless of who won the elections,” says the Fides source. “On Saturday, 19 February, Ouattara had organised a demonstration making reference to the riots in Egypt and Tunisia, calling his supporters to react in ways similar to those seen in North African countries. But the Ivorian situation can not be compared to that of Tunisia or Egypt, because the power expressed by Ouattara is to 50% of the population, while the military continues to support Gbagbo and repress the pro-Ouattara demonstrations.” (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 23/2/2011)