Gbagbo forces regain ground
Forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo, besieged in his Abidjan residence, have retaken ground and are edging closer to where rival presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara is holed up, the United Nations said.
These are the latest reactions gathered by our Ivorian correspondent, Selay Kouassi , following the latest developments in Abidjan.
"It is with dismay that I learned that the pro-Gbagbo forces regained ground, recovering Plateau and Cocody, where the important government bodies and foreign embassies are found. We can expect fierce fighting when Ouattara's men try to regain control of these areas," says a jaded Amara Kamagata.
"What we are experiencing right now is somewhat similar to the Libyan scenario where whenever one side takes control of an area and then it gets retaken by the other. And the instability and insecurity are growing," says Charles Amouyé, irritated.
"Gbagbo will not step down. He made this clear through his spokesman. He is presently proving his point : he is regaining ground. He knows he has lost and wants to drag down the whole country with him. Ouattara should remain firm, his army must uncover Gbagbo to avoid chaos," says Paul N'dabian.
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Alassane Ouattara, who has been recognised as the rightful president of Ivory Coast, has given a televised speech vowing to restore essential services and kick-start the economy. But is Mr Ouattara himself not responsible for war crimes in his power struggle with President Laurent Gbagbo? And if so, should the Netherlands continue to endorse him?
Images and reports of horrific atrocities have emerged from villages in western Ivory Coast which supported Mr Gbagbo. Murder, rape, looting, people being burnt alive in villages like Zuénoula, where Félicité Ritsma was born. She has lived in the Netherlands for 25 years, but still has a lot of contact with her family in Ivory Coast, as far as possible. Ms Ritsma decribes the atrocities committed by Mr Ouattara’s militias:
“They are killing people like you can't imagine. Foreign people and African—they're killing anyone. And they women they rape. Every horrible thing you can imagine in this world, they're doing it to them.”
Researcher Klaas van Walraven of the Africa Studies Centre in Leiden is reluctant to hold Mr Ouattara responsible for the bloodshed. As the winner of the elections, he is morally and politically responsible for what goes on in Ivory Coast, but Mr Van Walraven doubts whether he can be personally held accountable for it. What happened in Ivory Coast is a familiar story:
“It is a pattern you see in many African conflicts. Mr Ouattara’s troops, in so far as they are involved, are of course rebel militias. There has been a lack of discipline in the past. So it is quite possible that they were involved.”
These kinds of conflicts are especially dirty in Africa, says Mr Van Walraven. Fighters quite often turn against civilians rather than other militias. But he thinks there is no point in turning Mr Outtara into an outcast because of the recent violence. This Western way of looking at things annoys Mr Van Walraven: “It is in no-one’s interest to boycott Mr Ouattara, especially if you consider the humanitarian situation in Abidjan.”
Mr Ouattara himself has urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague to examine the violence which has taken place in Ivory Coast. Félicité Ritsma, who opposes Mr Ouattara, is very keen for this to happen:
“O yes, yes sir! Very much so. Yesterday I got a video, I'm going to copy it and take it to The Hague to show them what is really happening. People just talk—but they haven't seen the film.”
France, which has thousands of troops in its former colony, has promised to hand over any information it has to the ICC. Evidence of the atrocities has mainly come from French troops in the affected areas.
Mr Van Walraven does not see any role for the Dutch in an intervention in Ivory Coast:
“I think that in general it’s better for the Netherlands to coordinate its policies with the European Union. After all, it is France which has led the way in Ivory Coast. And, very generally, I would like to stress that a United Nations presence will be needed for a long time. It is an illusion to think that stability will return any time soon.”