Civil war looms over Ivory Coast as post-election violence swells

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December 23, 2010 19:40

A combination of two pictures shows (at L) incumbent Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo and (at R) beleaguered would-be Ivory Coast president Alassane Ouattara. Photo - Issouf Sanogo/AFP/Getty Images

Who: Incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo locked in a power struggle with presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara.

What: The UN deputy human rights commissioner Kyung-wha Kang said at least 173 people have lost their lives and more than 100 others have gone missing since the dispute started over the 28 November elections in Ivory Coast. She claimed Gbagbo government’s restrictions on UN personnel were making it “impossible” to investigate all the allegations of human rights abuses, including reports of mass graves. The West and African states support Gbagbo’s rival Alassane Ouattara in a violent standoff that threatens to push the West African country back into civil war.

Where: The top UN official was speaking to diplomats at a special session on Ivory Coast in Geneva, Switzerland. The political crisis has severely crippled the west African republic.

When: The UN session took place on Thursday to carefully assess the situation in Ivory Coast.

Why: The country’s Independent Electoral Commission ruled that Ouattara won the 28 November presidential run-off with 54% votes, a decision later certified by the UN. Incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo annulled the election results. Ivory Coast used to be a model of prosperity and diversity with its cocoa industry one of the largest in the world. Gbagbo has played the nationalist ‘Ivoirité’ card to keep the power and exclude Alassane Ouattara, a politician from the north of the country with links to neighbouring Burkina Faso. The country returned to peace in 2004 after a north-south civil war in 2002-03 that left the country divided.

How: The World Bank and other international financial institutions have frozen funding to Abidjan and attempts are in place to isolate Gbagbo internationally and cripple his grip on power. Gun battles broke out briefly between government soldiers and the rebels who now back Ouattara in capital Abidjan. The Ivorian military, dominated by the Bétés ethnic group from which Gbagbo hails, supports the incumbent president and is seen as one of the reasons he is able to defy calls to step down.

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