Security Forces Open Fire on Protesters in Ivory Coast
A leading Ivorian human rights group said at least 15 people had been killed among the crowds of supporters of Alassane Ouattara, who was elected president last month in a long-delayed vote but has been unable to assume office because Mr. Gbagbo has refused to step down.
Estimates of the scale of violence varied widely. Mr. Ouattara’s camp said 32 people were killed Thursday, while Amnesty International said that 9 were killed and news agencies reported death tolls between 6 and 18.
A police spokesman for Mr. Gbagbo’s government declined to provide specifics in a phone interview, saying, “I know nothing about it.” But Mr. Gbagbo’s education minister said on state television that 20 people had died, 10 of whom were police officers attacked by armed protesters, news agencies reported.
Mr. Ouattara has been recognized as the winner of last month’s election by the United Nations, the African Union, the United States and the European Union, leaving Mr. Gbagbo in near-total diplomatic isolation. But he has resisted repeated calls to cede the office he has had for 10 years, the last five of which he held without an election.
The country’s top elections officer proclaimed Mr. Ouattara the winner on Dec. 2, by a nearly nine-point margin. Only a day later, the head of the Constitutional Council, who is a close ally of the president, threw out vote totals from parts of the north — the stronghold of Mr. Ouattara — because of what he called “flagrant irregularities,” leading both men to claim the presidency.
The deadly standoff between the rival presidents appeared to be broadening on Thursday, as armed forces associated with the Ouattara camp clashed with Mr. Gbagbo’s troops on the streets of
Abidjan endured a day of tear gas, gunfire and loss on Thursday, as demonstrators confronted well-armed security forces all over the city. At one point, Mr. Gbagbo’s forces fired on a Ouattara position, a spokesman for Mr. Ouattara said, leaving one dead.
The protests stemmed from calls by Mr. Soro earlier in the week for a march on the headquarters of state television, one of the main sources of information in the country after Mr. Gbagbo banned foreign broadcasts. It has become a tireless propaganda machine for his government.
The call for a pro-Ouattara march appeared to be well heeded, as some neighborhoods were crowded with demonstrators from early morning, observers said. But the march soon turned into a rout.
The United Nations issued a statement expressing alarm at the escalating violence, warning that those responsible for attacks against civilians would be brought to justice.
Mr. Soro had asked the United Nations to protect the marchers, but he was turned down, a United Nations spokesman told reporters on Thursday, because the request fell outside the organization’s mission. United Nations platoons continue to defend Mr. Ouattara’s headquarters in a hotel in one of
“There have already been a lot of deaths,” Drissa Traoré, head of a leading human rights group, the Ivorian Movement for Human Rights, said in a phone interview from Abidjan. “In every neighborhood, the security forces are firing on people.”
The shooting was concentrated in neighborhoods loyal to Mr. Ouattara. In Cocody, a middle-class, largely residential neighborhood, the crowd was “pushed back by tear gas,” said André Kamaté, head of another local human rights organization, the Ivorian Human Rights League. Near the disputed television station, “I saw people stripped and beaten by the security forces,” Mr. Kamaté said.
Late Thursday, there was no indication that either side was backing down. The Ouattara camp had previously said it would take over government offices downtown on Friday. Mr. Soro called on Ivorians to “mobilize, and not be distracted by this dictatorship of tanks.”
Adam Nossiter reported from Dakar, Senegal, and J. David Goodman from
Donations can be sent to the
"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs