Fighting threatens mediation efforts in Côte d’Ivoire

An upsurge in factional fighting in Côte d’Ivoire on Wednesday threatened diplomatic efforts to end a months-old tug-of-war between rival claimants to the presidency of the world’s top cocoa producer.

Exchanges of gunfire, including with heavy weapons, were reported in Abidjan in a district controlled by forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognised Ivorian leader, residents said.

“There’s constant firing [in the northern Abobo district]. People are locked up in their homes,” said one resident.

Another spoke of ongoing clashes with heavy weapons.

Clashes broke out in the working-class district late on Tuesday, claiming the lives of about 10 troops loyal to Laurent Gbagbo, the outgoing president who has refused to relinquish power.


The surging tension comes as the African Union (AU) has stepped up efforts to break the impasse.

The presidents of Chad, Mauritania, South Africa and Tanzania, appointed by the AU, met Gbagbo and Ouattara on Monday and Tuesday in a bid to forge a binding agreement by the end of February.

Force would be used
Members of a high-level group led by Mauritania’s Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz have begun leaving for Nouakchott and were to arrive in the Mauritanian capital in the coming days to hammer out next steps.

The African Union has backed a peaceful resolution to the crisis, but former mediator Raila Odinga, the Kenyan prime minister, said Wednesday that force would be used if economic sanctions do not result in Gbagbo’s ouster.

Odinga, whose efforts to mediate an end to the standoff failed last year, made the remarks at a news conference in Nairobi.

The Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) has also threatened the use of force to oust Gbagbo from the presidential palace.

Meanwhile on Tuesday Ouattara extended a ban on cocoa exports, a cornerstone of the economy, to March 15. He had ordered a one-month halt on January 24 in an attempt to choke off funding for Gbagbo.

Ahead of Tuesday’s fighting, Gbagbo forces deployed two armoured vehicles at a central roundabout and cordoned off some areas of Abidjan’s Abobo district.

‘Getting out of here’
Residents reported fighting with heavy weapons late in the day between Gbagbo’s Defence and Security Forces (FDS) and unidentified armed men.

A security source said an elite unit, the Security Operations Command Centre or Cecos, lost around 10 men in an ambush.

A high-ranking Cecos official told Agence France-Presse (AFP) however that the unit lost only three men while another seven suffered bullet wounds, and that the unit killed seven assailants.

Witnesses said the death toll was heavier and included many civilians. The body of a civilian killed by bullets lay in a pool of blood outside a petrol station early on Wednesday.

The violence occurred in Abobo as well as in the southern Koumassi and Treichville districts, corroborating sources said.

“The assailants have taken control of the area since yesterday and killed uniformed men,” one woman told AFP, balancing a bundle of belongings on her head. “I’m getting out of here.”

‘Revolution’
The Gbagbo government claims that “rebels” operating in the area had killed around 10 FDS men since January and before Tuesday’s fighting.

The Ouattara camp, allied with the New Forces former rebel group that has controlled the north of Côte d’Ivoire since 2002, denies any involvement in Tuesday’s fighting.

Inspired by the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, backers of Ouattara last week stepped up calls for a “revolution” to force Gbagbo out.

FDS forces have killed at least 10 pro-Ouattara demonstrators since Saturday when the pro-Gbagbo soldiers fired real bullets into the crowds, corroborating sources said.

Post-election violence has claimed more then 300 lives since mid-December, according to the United Nations. – AFP

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Christophe Koffi
Christophe Koffi
Social and environmental scientist, focused on forest, food security and climate change adaptation.

Related stories

Burundian refugees in Tanzania face increasing danger

Human Rights Watch has documented cases of Burundian refugees being tortured and forcibly returned by Tanzanian authorities

African leaders must continue to press for talks: Ethiopia is too big to fail

The conflict in Ethiopia could spill over into the entire Horn of Africa region. AU and regional leaders need to step up their efforts to de-escalate the situation

The Africa investment protocol: a prickly pear for Africans

The Africa Continental Free Trade Area is set to be launched in January 2021. But the secretariat still needs to ensure that investors are adequately protected

Editorial: Cyril must embrace his AU role

There are several African conflicts that require urgent attention

The European companies that armed the Ivorian civil war

AN OCCRP investigation reveals that Gunvor and Semlex brokered weapons-for-oil deals in early 2011 when Côte d’Ivoire was in crisis, despite a UN arms embargo

Women are entitled to own land

Too many laws and customs in too many African countries still treat women as minors
Advertising

Subscribers only

Dozens of birds and bats perish in extreme heat in...

In a single day, temperatures in northern KwaZulu-Natal climbed to a lethal 45°C, causing a mass die-off of birds and bats

Q&A Sessions: Frank Chikane on the rainbow where colours never...

Reverend Frank Chikane has just completed six years as the chairperson of the Kagiso Trust. He speaks about corruption, his children’s views and how churches can be mobilised

More top stories

Corruption forces health shake-up in Gauteng

Dr Thembi Mokgethi appointed as new health MEC as premier seeks to stop Covid-19 malfeasance

Public-private partnerships are key for Africa’s cocoa farmers

Value chain efficiency and partnerships can sustain the livelihoods of farmers of this historically underpriced crop

Battery acid, cassava sticks and clothes hangers: We must end...

COMMENT: The US’s global gag rule blocks funding to any foreign NGOS that perform abortions, except in very limited cases. The Biden-Harris administration must rescind it

Eskom could be fined R5-million over pollution at Kendal power...

The power utility is being taken to court by the Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries in a first-of-its-kind criminal prosecution
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…