Pro-Gbagbo supporters hold massive rally in Abidjan

Thousands of supporters of Côte d’Ivoire strongman Laurent Gbagbo were holding an overnight rally in Abijdan on Sunday, as international efforts intensified to stop the slide towards civil war.

Côte d’Ivoire’s internationally recognised president Alassane Ouattara meanwhile rejected the African Union’s latest choice to mediate the crisis, citing the envoy’s “personal relations” with Gbagbo.

The rally came as the UN Security Council examines a draft resolution demanding Gbagbo’s departure and more powers for UN peacekeepers to protect civilians, as concern mounts over the increasing bloodshed.

In the heart of the economic capital Abidjan, thousands of people, mostly youths, gathered in front of the presidential palace late on Saturday for an all-night rally, a show of force by the embattled Gbagbo.

Loud music blared from speakers and supporters brandished Ivorian flags and placards with pro-Gbagbo slogans.

The rally’s organiser, Charles Ble Goude, Gbagbo’s fiery youth minister and leader of the militant “Young Patriots”, arrived to loud cheers, carrying a mattress on his back.

“Before attacking Laurent Gbagbo, you will [have to] cut the throats of all these people here,” he said, addressing the international community.

“There will be no civil war,” he shouted, denouncing French President Nicolas Sarkozy, US President Barack Obama, the United Nations and the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas).

“If Alassane Ouattara had the means to take Abidjan he would have taken it long ago,” said Ble Goude.

‘General of the Streets’
Ble Goude, known as “General of the Streets” for his ability to muster massive crowds, said “more than 100 000” youths had registered to enlist in Gbagbo’s army. A week ago he had called for young people “willing to die for their country” to step forward.


But while Pascal Affi N’Guessan, the head of Gbagbo’s political party, denounced Ouattara as “a mercenary in the service of Western imperialism”, Ble Goude renewed a call for talks to end the crisis.

A statement from Ouattara late on Saturday however rejected the African Union’s choice of Cape Verde’s former foreign minister Jose Brito as its envoy to mediate Gbagbo’s departure.

Ouattara expressed surprise that Brito had been selected “given his personal relationship and his political connection .. with the incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo.”

Earlier this month, the African Union recognised Ouattara as the winner of last November’s presidential election, but asked him to help find a “graceful exit” for Gbagbo.

The UN Security Council met on Friday to discuss a draft resolution introduced by France and Nigeria to impose a heavy weapons ban in Abidjan.

“Law and order is collapsing, humanitarian access is more and more difficult, hospitals are closing,” France’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gerard Araud, said in New York on Friday.

“We are very, very close to a civil war in Abidjan.”

US President Barack Obama said late on Friday that if Gbagbo and his supporters continued to cling to power, it would “lead to more violence, more innocent civilians being wounded and killed and more diplomatic and economic isolation”.

The Ouattara stronghold of Abobo in northern Abidjan remains the epicentre of the fighting, as pro-Ouattara fighters attempt to break out into surrounding suburbs held by Gbagbo’s troops.

The international community has already condemned Gbagbo forces for the shelling of an Abobo market earlier this month, which killed up to 30 people.

Half of northern Côte d’Ivoire — an area controled by pro-Ouattara forces — has been without electricity and water since Wednesday, residents reported on Saturday, the second massive failure this month.

Clashes between forces loyal to the two rivals are estimated by the United Nations to have killed 52 people in the last week, with a total death toll of at least 462 people.

The November 28 presidential run-off vote was supposed to end a decade of political turmoil which divided the world’s top cocoa producer into a rebel-held north and Gbagbo-controlled south after a failed coup in 2002. – AFP

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. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

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

Zuma turns on judiciary as trial nears

Former president says pre-trial correspondence is part of another plot

High court declares Dudu Myeni delinquent

Disgraced former SAA chairperson Dudu Myeni has been declared a delinquent director by the...

SANDF inquiry clears soldiers of the death of Collins Khosa

The board of inquiry also found that it was Khosa and his brother-in-law Thabiso Muvhango who caused the altercation with the defence force members

Lockdown relief scheme payouts to employees tops R14-billion

Now employers and employees can apply to the Unemployment Insurance Fund for relief scheme payments
Advertising

Press Releases

Obituary: Mohammed Tikly

His legacy will live on in the vision he shared for a brighter more socially just future, in which racism and discrimination are things of the past

Openview, now powered by two million homes

The future of free-to-air satellite TV is celebrating having two million viewers by giving away two homes worth R2-million

Road to recovery for the tourism sector: The South African perspective

The best-case scenario is that South Africa's tourism sector’s recovery will only begin in earnest towards the end of this year

What Africa can learn from Cuba in combating the Covid-19 pandemic

Africa should abandon the neoliberal path to be able to deal with Covid-19 and other health system challenges likely to emerge in future

Coexisting with Covid-19: Saving lives and the economy in India

A staggered exit from the lockdown accompanied by stepped-up testing to cover every district is necessary for India right now

Covid-19: Eased lockdown and rule of law Webinar

If you are arrested and fined in lockdown, you do get a criminal record if you pay the admission of guilt fine

Covid-19 and Frontline Workers

Who is caring for the healthcare workers? 'Working together is how we are going to get through this. It’s not just a marathon, it’s a relay'.

PPS webinar Part 2: Small business, big risk

The risks that businesses face and how they can be dealt with are something all business owners should be well acquainted with

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday