A youth leader who backs the president clinging to power in Ivory Coast has called on people to chase out foreigners from their neighborhoods, while the UN expressed alarm about a “disturbing escalation” in violence in recent days.
The comments by Charles Ble Goude raise new concerns for the safety of UN personnel and other international workers in Ivory Coast. Goude has already been sanctioned by the UN for inciting hatred, and youth led by him attacked French citizens in 2004. An untold number of French women were also gang raped.
Goude said on Friday that the political crisis in Ivory Coast was coming to a head three months after the disputed election, and he said now was the time for “real” Ivorians to protect the country.
Bloody clashes between security forces loyal to incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo and militias allied with his political rival have left dozens dead this week. The UN has warned that this week’s escalation is a breach of a six-year-old ceasefire.
“These developments mark a disturbing escalation, which draws the country closer to the brink of re-igniting civil war,” said Martin Nesirky, UN spokesman for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Meanwhile, a military spokesman loyal to Gbagbo went on state television late on Friday and accused a UN peacekeeper of fatally shooting a police officer. The UN denied the report.
Colonel Hilaire Gohourou said an officer was “shamefully assassinated” during the handover of three pro-Gbagbo protesters, who had been arrested by the UN earlier in the day in Daloa, in the center of the country.
However, the UN information officer in Daloa, Malik Faye, said no one was wounded or killed after guards were forced to fire into the air to disperse the crowd.
Gbagbo had been in power for more than a decade and has remained in office months after the international community said he lost the Nov. 28 vote to his rival Alassane Ouattara.
Ouattara remains confined to the grounds of a resort hotel where he is under 24-hour UN guard.
In the three months since the election, Gbagbo’s security forces have pummeled pro-Ouattara neighborhoods, killing as many as 300 people, according to the UN. However, this week for the first time, a pro-Ouattara group calling itself the “invisible commandos’ began fighting back.
The group claimed in a news release to have killed 27 police and paramilitary forces loyal Gbagbo in the Abobo district of Abidjan.
Daily battles with machine guns, grenades and rocket launchers have continued throughout the city ever since.