Wed, Jan 19, 2011 - Page 6 News List

UN troops in Ivory Coast fire warning shots to stop mob


UN peacekeepers in Ivory Coast fired warning shots in the air on Monday to disperse a mob allied with the president who is refusing to give up power, and a regional envoy arrived to try to persuade the defiant leader to cede office in the interest of peace.

The crowd descended on a parking lot near the luxury Pullman hotel where African Union envoy Raila Odinga was expected to stay.

The hotel was being guarded by UN armored personnel carriers, and reporters saw the mob encircle the vehicles, shouting and pumping their fists in the air.

Seconds later, there was the crack of gunfire; a cloud of birds flew out of nearby trees and protesters scattered.

Odinga, the prime minister of Kenya, spent the afternoon with Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo, who insists he won the Nov. 28 presidential poll even though results tallied by the electoral commission and double-checked by a special UN observation mission showed opposition leader Alassane Ouattara had won.

Attacks against the UN have been mounting. Last week six of their cars were destroyed by pro-Gbagbo mobs, who accuse the UN of bias, and of being part of “a foreign plot” to remove the leader.

Odinga’s trip is the fifth high-level visit by an African leader trying to find a solution to the standoff. In a statement released on Monday, Odinga said Gbagbo’s unwillingness to respect the results could create a crisis of confidence for Africa and lead people to think their votes do not matter in a year when 17 presidential elections are scheduled.

“The refusal to respect the will of the Ivorians as expressed in the November elections will deal a deadly blow to the wave of democracy that is sweeping Africa,” Odinga said.

On Monday night after leaving the presidential palace, Odinga was expected to visit Ouattara, who is holed up in a hotel across town, unable to leave except by helicopter because troops loyal to Gbagbo have sealed off the roads.

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