COTE D IVOIRE: Anti-Gbagbo demonstrations erupt

Friday, December 1, 2006
Acrid smoke drifted through Abidjan early on Thursday morning as demonstrators erected barricades with burning tyres in several neighbourhoods, as well as in the interior cities of Toumodi, Yamoussoukro and Dabou, but police broke the demonstrations up with tear gas.

Demonstrators said they were calling for President Laurent Gbagbo to annul decrees signed this week reinstating three government officials who were suspended over a toxic waste scandal in September. Gbagbo also sacked the heads of the state-run Fraternite Matin newspaper and Ivorian Radio Television this week.

"We are demonstrating against Laurent Gbagbo's toxic decision to rehabilitate assassins,” said Salimata Porquet, president of the International Forum of Women for Peace and Development. "Today is just the beginning. Tomorrow there will be more of us in the street until the head of state cancels his decisions.”

The officials had originally been found negligent by an investigative body commissioned by Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny in connection with the dumping of toxic waste around Abidjan last month that caused a major health scare. Banny said in a statement on Monday that he would fight the president’s decisions.

Gbagbo and Banny are already at odds since peace-sealing presidential elections scheduled for last month by the UN were suspended until September 2007, but much of Gbagbo’s powers were supposed to have been passed over to Banny.

State-run media reported that US Ambassador Aubrey Hooks, Ivorian Chief of Staff General Philipe Mangou and Gendarmes General Tiape Kassarate met with Banny in the capital Yamoussoukro in an attempt to mediate a way out of the growing tensions.

The United Nations Mission in Cote d'Ivoire (ONUCI) on Thursday said it was also trying to diffuse tension between Gbagbo and his prime minister.

The monthly meeting of the International Working Group (GTI) on Cote d’Ivoire is to be held on Friday in Abidjan. It will be the first GTI meeting since the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1721 earlier this month, granting more power to the prime minister after the presidential election scheduled for October failed to materialise.

The resolution extended the country’s transition by one year and was adopted based on the recommendations of the African Union.

Cote d’Ivoire has been divided between a rebel-held north and government-run south since a brief civil war in 2002. Some 10,000 United Nations and French peacekeepers monitore a buffer zone on the former front line to prevent further fighting between the army, rebels and heavily armed militia groups.
Author: (IRIN)
Source: IRIN
See Also