Ivorians killed in fresh anti-government protests

Four protesters were killed in the Ivory Coast this morning in demonstrations against incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo. Three men and a woman were killed in Abidjan.

Last week, seven protesters were killed by army forces loyal to the president.

Witnesses told the AFP that until shots were heard, yesterday’s protests weren’t met with any military resistance. Demonstrators planned to march in honour of International Women’s Day.

These protests have their roots in two conflicts threatening Ivory Coast – a disputed election and its cocoa industry.

Elections were held in November, after which candidate Alassane Ouattara was widely recognised as the victor, winning by a margin of 54% to 46%. However, Gbagbo has refused to step down.

Clashes have been sporadic – Ivorian dissent has been expressed in the form of protests and demonstrations rather than violent clashes. However, many of these clashes end in conflict and bloodshed.

AP reports that clinics in Abidjan have been overwhelmed with casualties.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees says violence in Abidjan and nearby towns has forced around 300,000 from their homes since the elections. Approximately 70,000 Ivorians are said to have left the country, fleeing west to Liberia.

The African Union, after suspending Ivory Coast’s membership in the wake of disputed elections, has invited Messrs. Gbagbo and Ouattara to hear its proposed solutions to the crisis.

The BBC’s correspondent reflects that should these talks fail, Ivory Coast could see a return to its brutal civil war.

John James says that while there is calm along the ceasefire line between the rebel-controlled north and the government-controlled south, the west of the country is experiencing the worst of the violence.

Rebels are claiming back land close to the border with Liberia, and say they wish to prevent mercenaries from Liberia joining government forces.


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