For sometime, the centre of Africa’s anarchic one-party systems, gory tyrants, brutal dictatorships, self-serving military juntas and hideous civil wars, West Africa is changing and indisputably sowing democratic seeds. Whether in Cape Verde, Liberia, Guinea-Conakry, Niger, Nigeria or Guinea Bissau multi-party elections are blowing across the once politically sick region.
14 April 2011 –Although the political stand-off in Côte d’Ivoire ended earlier this week, the humanitarian crisis spawned by months of violence continues, United Nations agencies and their partners stressed today as they appeal for $160 million to scale up aid to affected populations inside the country.
Today’s appeal represents a five-fold increase over the $32 million initially sought by aid agencies in January at the onset of the humanitarian crisis stemming from the fighting that ensued after Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down after he lost the UN-certified presidential run-off election last November to Alassane Ouattara.
Mr. Gbagbo finally surrendered on Monday after more than four months of turmoil in the West African nation. UN aid officials have estimated that up to 1 million Ivorians have been displaced by the violence, with some internally displaced and others forced to flee into neighbouring countries – particularly Liberia, which is hosting 135,000 Ivorians.
“The humanitarian crisis is not yet over,” said the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Côte d’Ivoire, Ndolamb Ngokwey. “All across the country, it will take many months to restore people’s dignity and rebuild livelihoods.
“Aid agencies will be here as long as it will take but we need to start now. We are asking for only $74 for each person affected,” he stated.
The $160 million appeal aims to provide food security, nutrition, education, protection, water, health care and sanitation to as many as two million people throughout Côte d’Ivoire. It will also allow UN agencies and non-governmental organizations, to significantly scale up relief programmes, notably in the commercial capital of Abidjan and in the west.
The appeal also seeks funding for aid to the north, an area that has received little attention during the past four months, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Humanitarian agencies have also appealed for $146 million to address the needs of the Ivorians who have sought refuge in Liberia.
Meanwhile, the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) reports that the security situation in Abidjan is improving. In addition, water, electricity, and basic services have been restored in some areas, and businesses are re-opening and traffic is returning to the streets.
“I would not be surprised to see that cars, taxis will emerge increasingly in large numbers by the end of the week,” said Y. J. Choi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of UNOCI. “We will help encourage people to leave their homes and resume their activities,” he added.
In an effort to do just that, the mission organized a peace parade today in which a caravan of dozens of cars drove through the main streets of Abidjan to mark the improved security situation there.
Mr. Choi, who took part in the event, did acknowledge that some districts of the city were not yet secure, noting for example that there is still sniper fire in Yopougon. He also pledged that UNOCI will continue to help Côte d’Ivoire meet the challenges it faces.
Hamadoun Touré, spokesperson for UNOCI, said that Abidjan had seemed like a ghost town for the past several weeks. “People were scared to go out while they were short of basic needs like food, water and medicine,” he told the UN News Centre.
“It [the parade] is a signal to encourage them to try and lead a normal life,” he said, adding that this was the right time to hold such an event since fighting has ended in the city and the post-electoral crisis has reached a turning point with the capture of Mr. Gbagbo.
UN News Center
UN News Center
11 April 2011 – The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Cote d’Ivoire today confirmed that the country’s former president Laurent Gbagbo has surrendered to forces loyal to President-elect Alassane Ouattara and is currently in their custody.
“ONUCI [UN Operation in Cote d’Ivoire] is providing protection and security in accordance with its Security Council mandate,” the spokesperson of the Secretary-General told reporters at UN Headquarters.
Côte d’Ivoire has been engulfed by violence since last November, when Mr. Gbagbo refused to step down from power, despite losing a UN-certified and internationally recognized presidential election to Mr. Ouattara.
The Security Council, meanwhile, went into urgent consultations during which it will hear a briefing on the unfolding situation in Côte d’Ivoire from the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Alain Le Roy.
From The BBC
Besieged Ivorian leader Laurent Gbagbo has been detained in the main city Abidjan and delivered to the headquarters of his elected successor.
He reportedly surrendered to Alassane Ouattara’s forces after French tanks advanced on his residence.
Mr Gbagbo had been refusing to cede power to Mr Ouattara after losing November’s presidential election.
France said pro-Ouattara troops had detained him, but an aide to Mr Gbagbo said it was French special forces.
Mr Gbagbo was then taken to the city’s Golf Hotel, where Mr Ouattara has his headquarters.
UN peacekeepers accused pro-Gbagbo forces of endangering the civilian population and had asked French troops in Ivory Coast to act against the defiant leader’s heavy weapons.
Ivory Coast’s permanent representative to the UN, Youssoufou Bamba, said Mr Gbagbo would stand trial.
In London, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said that if charges were brought, Mr Gbagbo should be tried in an orderly manner.
‘Gbagbo has surrendered’
Forces loyal to Mr Ouattara launched an offensive from their stronghold in the north at the end of March, after months of political deadlock during which Mr Gbagbo refused to recognise his rival’s election victory (continue at BBC)
From the Wall Street Journal
Forces loyal to Ivory Coast’s elected president Alassane Ouattara have seized strongman Laurent Gbagbo from his residence, bringing to a head a protracted conflict between two presidential rivals that had tilted the world’s largest cocoa producer toward civil war.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Ouattara said Monday that Mr. Gbagbo was captured during a flurry of fighting earlier in the day. “There [was] heavy fighting involving French soldiers, the United Nations and our forces against Mr. Gbagbo’s forces,” spokeswoman Sogona Bamba-Arnault said from Paris. “Once all heavy weapons were destroyed, Mr. Gbagbo was there and we arrested him.”
An aide to Mr. Gbagbo said the incumbent ruler was first arrested by French special forces, and only later handed to forces loyal to Mr. Ouattara.
In Paris, French officials had no immediate comment.
Ms. Bamba-Arnault, the president-elect’s spokeswoman, said Mr. Gbagbo was taken to the Golf Hotel, where Mr. Ouattara has set up his office.
Mr. Gbagbo lost a November presidential runoff certified by the U.N. but refused to recognize the result, citing voting irregularities.
When attempts by African leaders to mediate the conflict failed, Mr. Ouattara’s rebel forces launched an offensive, sweeping south and capturing key towns and ports that Mr. Gbagbo’s army once held.
That advance stalled outside the main Ivory Coast city of Abidjan, a stronghold for Mr. Gbagbo’s supporters. It was only when the U.N. and Licorne, or Unicorn—the French battalion stationed in Abidjan—launched a series of aerial attacks that the rebels were able to encircle the former Ivory Coast president in his residence.
The U.N. and the French said the air assaults were intended to protect civilians by destroying Mr. Gbagbo’s artillery and weapons stockpiles. Mr. Gbagbo’s supporters said the military intervention was the work of a former colonial power pushing a political rival into the presidency.
Mr. Gbagbo resisted surrender, and a core of a couple of hundred supporters rebuffed initial efforts to capture his residence. Mr. Gbagbo’s supporters continued to attack French and U.N. targets, prompting a retaliation that appeared to pave the way for the former president’s capture on Monday.
Recent controversies associated with his rebel forces have complicated Mr. Ouattara’s struggle to oust the Ivory Coast strongman from his residence, and also point to the challenges of reconciliation after the conflict. The Ivory Coast fought a two-year civil war after Mr. Gbagbo came to power, and although the conflict officially ended in 2002, the country has remained sharply divided.
In a report released by New York-based Human Rights Watch over the weekend, Mr. Ouattara’s forces were said to have “killed hundreds of civilians, raped more than 20 alleged supporters of his rival, Laurent Gbagbo, and burned at least 10 villages” in the country’s western region during their advance south. The report said Mr. Gbagbo’s backers also killed supporters of the president-elect, but it called on Mr. Ouattara to investigate abuses on both sides.
That report followed a separate account from the International Committee of the Red Cross, estimating that 800 people were killed in intercommunal violence in the town of Duekoue, after troops loyal to Mr. Ouattara moved through the area.
The International Criminal Court also has said it was considering opening an investigation into reports of atrocities during the conflict.
Mr. Ouattara has pledged to launch an investigation into the allegations, and vowed that the perpetrators would be brought to justice in domestic or international courts.
As the sun finally sets on Laurent Gbagbo’s reign in the cocoa growing nation of West Africa, signifying an imminent collapse of his regime, it has become pertinent to begin to take a look at what the future of Cote D’Ivoire should` look like post Laurent Gbagbo.
That this West African nation has suffered so much instability since the death of its first President, Felix Houphuet Boigny in 1993, seem like repeating the obvious.
As Alhassane Quattara takes over the mantle of leadership it is important he takes a deep look at the history of his country with a view of identifying the immediate and remote cause[s] of instability in this once peaceful and economically prosperous nation. He should NOT see himself as a politician who must take back his proverbial “pound of flesh” for the numerous injustices he has suffered, but rather consider himself as a statesman whose primary assignment is the healing of wounds and also reintegration of a country that is divided along ethnic/religious/geographical lines, that is, [north/islam] and [south/christianity] dichotomy.
He should also not seek to mete out the treatment visited on him by past Ivorien leaders who denied him his nationality claiming he was a Burkinabe on his rivals but rather invite them to form an all inclusive national government to chart a prosperous future for Cote D’Ivoire. And lastly, he should take a cue from the neighboring West African nation of Ghana whose political leaders have decided to build strong democratic institutions as opposed to the pervasive “personalization” of power rampant in most parts of Africa.
Indeed Quattara must hit the ground running in order to lead his country to the right place she belongs to as the country has lost valuable time bickering over a contrived and avoidable political crisis.
7 April 2011 –The United Nations relief chief sounded the alarm today about the humanitarian situation inside Côte d’Ivoire, saying emergency aid is needed now to help hundreds of thousands of civilians caught up in the deadly violence that has engulfed the West African country.
Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, told journalists in New York that she had “just returned from a deeply troubling visit” to Côte d’Ivoire and neighbouring Liberia.
Ms. Amos said she saw evidence of “what must have been terrible violence” and spoke to numerous people who had either endured or witnessed atrocities as a result of fighting between forces supporting the former president Laurent Gbagbo, who has refused to step down, and those backing Alassane Ouattara, the UN-certified winner of last November’s presidential election.
The heaviest fighting is now focused on the commercial capital, Abidjan, where pro-Gbagbo forces are concentrated. The UN peacekeeping mission (UNOCI) is carrying out ground and air patrols to try to protect civilians and to respond to requests for assistance from journalists and foreign nationals.
UNOCI troops deployed to secure the Félix Houphouët-Boigny bridge in Abidjan were shelled from the lagoon side late yesterday and had to return fire.
“People are immensely traumatized,” Ms. Amos said. “They have witnessed terrible violence, and many have been directly targeted.”
Ms. Amos heard stories of women witnessing the execution of their husbands, of women and girls being abducted, and of children being forcibly separated from their parents.
“I spoke to women who had hidden in a swamp for three days, hiding from militias. I heard claims there are hundreds if not thousands of people still hiding in the forests. I also heard claims that militias are hunting people with dogs.”
The Under-Secretary-General stressed that there can be no impunity for the perpetrators of crimes against civilians.
“While we don’t yet know the full extent of the atrocities that have been carried out, they clearly add up to extremely serious human rights violations.”
Earlier this week prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague said they may open investigations into the “widespread and systematic” killings in Côte d’Ivoire in recent weeks.
Ms. Amos noted that given the deep roots of the violence and discord in Côte d’Ivoire, “a sustained process of reconciliation is going to be needed” throughout the country.
But she said that the parties to the fighting must ensure that humanitarian aid can reach those in need.
“Humanitarian aid needs to be provided now – to alleviate the worst suffering; to provide protection for people; and to help reduce the tensions which will only escalate as food and other basic essentials run short.”
UN aid officials have estimated that up to 1 million Ivorians have been displaced by the violence, with some internally displaced and others forced to flee into neighbouring countries, particularly Liberia.
“Liberian authorities, UN agencies and our partner NGOs [non-governmental organizations] are doing their utmost to ensure that the response is adequate,” the Emergency Relief Coordinator said.
“But we still have a long way to go. With more money, we can deliver more food, provide shelter [and] offer better medical treatment to those who are sick, and much more.”
Ms. Amos said the UN would focus on ensuring that aid workers can gain access to those areas where populations require assistance.
“The important thing to remember here is it is ordinary people who are caught up in this violence. What they told me over and over again is they want a safe and stable Côte d’Ivoire, so they can go on with their lives.”
UN News Center
5 April 2011 –The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Côte d’Ivoire reported today that it has received telephone calls from the heads of forces loyal to former leader Laurent Gbagbo stating that their soldiers have been instructed to stop fighting and hand in their weapons to the UN.
The UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) said the calls came from General Philippe Mangou, the chief-of-staff of the Defence and Security Forces, General Thiape Kassarate Edouard, the commander of the National Gendarmerie and General Bruno Dogbo Blé, the commander of the Republican Guard.
Troops loyal to Mr. Gbagbo, the former president who refused to step down after losing the election in November to opposition leader Alassane Ouattara, have been engaged in fierce fighting with forces loyal to Mr. Ouattara, who have in recent weeks stepped up their offensive to force the ex-leader out of power. Mr. Ouattara is the internationally recognised President of Côte d’Ivoire.
“UNOCI has given orders to its troops to receive arms wherever they are handed in and to offer protection to disarmed FDSCI [Defence and Security Forces of Côte d’Ivoire] elements, including the Special Forces,” the UN mission said in a press release.
Meanwhile, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that the situation in Abidjan, the West African country’s commercial capital and the scene of the some fiercest fighting over the past week, is alarming.
Most of the hospitals are not functioning and ambulances have been fired on when they tried to enter the city, according to OCHA.
Valerie Amos, the UN Under-Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs, who is visiting Côte d’Ivoire, reported that internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the western town of Duékoué, the scene of an alleged massacre of civilians last week, were “fearful and traumatized.”
Ms. Amos, who is also the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator and head of OCHA, stressed the need for physical protection for those affected and the distribution of sufficient humanitarian aid. Access to many civilians in need has, however, been severely restricted or completely cut off since mid-February when the fighting intensified, according to OCHA.
The Emergency Relief Coordinator was accompanied on the visit to Duékoué yesterday by the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Simonovic, who went to the town to look into the mass killings that allegedly took place last Wednesday.
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) voiced alarm over the impact of the violence in Côte d’Ivoire on children.
“We are especially troubled by reports that children are among the victims of a mass killing there,” said Anthony Lake, the UNICEF Executive Director. “And children continue to be recruited by armed forces on all sides of the conflict – a grave violation of their rights which jeopardizes not only their future but also the chances for achieving sustainable peace in Cote d’Ivoire.”
“We fear outbreaks of disease if we and other agencies cannot reach the thousands of internally displaced families,” added Mr. Lake.
UN News Center
Violence is escalating in the west African nation of Ivory Coast, where president-elect Alassane Ouattara is trying to oust incumbent Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to leave office after losing an election.
Categories: Issues Tags: Colonel Muammar Ghaddafi of Libya, cote d'ivoire, Human Rights, Ivorian refugee crisis, ivory coast, Laurent Gbagbo, libya, Mohammad Gaddafi, Muammar Gaddafi, Ouattara, UN, UNHCR
France has sent extra troops to Ivory Coast’s main city, Abidjan, and taken control of its airport.
It comes as fighting continued between forces loyal to the UN-recognised president, Alassane Ouattara, and his rival, incumbent Laurent Gbagbo.
The city’s pro-Gbagbo TV station called for people to mobilise against the French ‘”occupation”.
An adviser to Mr Ouattara said his forces were preparing a final push to depose Mr Gbagbo, AP reports.
France has sent an extra 300 soldiers to Ivory Coast, military spokesman Thierry Burkhard said, taking the total French force to about 1,400.
The airport had been secured by UN troops since Friday, but the French move meant the airport was now able to re-open, Mr Burkhard said.
He said there were no immediate plans to start evacuating foreigners.
More than 1,500 foreigners are sheltering in a French army camp.
They include about 700 French nationals, some 600 Lebanese citizens and 60 Europeans of assorted nationalities, French media report.
‘Lives at stake’
Ivorian state TV, which is controlled by Mr Gbagbo, accused the French troops of preparing a genocide like the one in Rwanda in 1994, when more than 800,000 people were killed.
A strap line on state TV on Sunday read: “[French President Nicolas] Sarkozy’s men are preparing a Rwandan genocide in Ivory Coast. Ivorians, let us go out en masse and occupy the streets. Let us stay standing.”
Mr Sarkozy has called a cabinet meeting for Sunday afternoon to discuss the crisis in Ivory Coast.
On Saturday, heavy artillery fire was heard in Abidjan as the two sides fought for key sites including the presidential palace, the headquarters of state TV and the Agban military base.
Four UN soldiers were seriously wounded when special forces loyal to Mr Gbagbo fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a UN armoured personnel carrier.
The west of Ivory Coast has also seen vicious battles between rival militias and ethnic groups. On Saturday, the Caritas aid agency said its staff had found the bodies of hundreds of people in Duekoue, and estimated that 1,000 may have died.
The killings occurred between 27 March and 29 March in the Carrefour district, which was controlled at the time by fighters loyal to Mr Ouattara, spokesman Patrick Nicholson told the Associated Press.
“Caritas does not know who was responsible for the killing, but says a proper investigation must take place to establish the truth,” he said.
Most of the 1,000 peacekeepers based in Duekoue had been protecting about 15,000 refugees at a Catholic mission there, Mr Nicholson added.
The International Committee of the Red Cross put the death toll at about 800, while the UN said more than 330 people were killed as Mr Ouattara’s forces took over Duekoue, most of them at the hands of his fighters. However, more than 100 of them were killed by Mr Gbagbo’s troops, it added.
Sidiki Konate, a spokesman for Mr Ouattara’s government, said that while some people had been killed in the fighting between the two sides in recent days, there had been no deliberate killings of Gbagbo supporters.
ICRC staff who visited Duekoue on Thursday and Friday to gather evidence said the scale and brutality of the killings were shocking.
Tens of thousands of women, men and children have fled the fighting.