Gbagbo loyalists attack UN staff

2011-01-13 21:41

Abidjan - Supporters of embattled Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo on Thursday attacked at least four UN vehicles in Abidjan, with peacekeepers increasingly targeted in the deadly presidential stand-off.

UN patrols have previously come under attack from forces loyal to Gbagbo, who refuses to concede a November 28 presidential election to his besieged rival Alassane Ouattara, but not on the scale of Thursday's attacks.

"There were three vehicles which were burnt this morning in the Riviera II area," UN mission in Ivory Coast (UNOCI) spokesperson Kenneth Blackman told AFP, adding that Gbagbo loyalists were "certainly" responsible.

"There is no doubt about it," he said. A UN ambulance was also stoned on one of Abidjan's main bridges "by elements of the security forces of the Gbagbo camp," he said.

He was unable to say if there were any casualties in any of the attacks, which a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said in Geneva could amount to war crimes.

"We are very concerned by these attacks," spokesperson Rupert Colville said. "Attacks on peacekeepers may be considered as war crimes."


Troops loyal to Gbagbo on Tuesday night attacked a UN patrol in Abidjan, wounding three peacekeepers.

That attack happened in Abidjan's tense Abobo district, largely loyal to Ouattara, where hundreds of Gbagbo's Defence and Security Forces (FDS) moved in early on Tuesday.

Gbagbo slapped a night-time curfew on the restive area on Wednesday night, after 11 people died in violence there.

Army chief of staff General Philippe Mangou has said the curfew would be used to "seek and flush out everbody behind these attacks," and could be extended to other Abidjan neighbourhoods.

Ouattara's camp on Thursday denied it had been encouraging what General Mangou called "endless calls for civil disobedience, armed insurrection and murder of all sorts".

"We reject these accusations," Ouattara's government spokesperson Patrick Achi told AFP.

"It's the security forces who once more have sought to provoke the peaceful population. We will not respond to these provocations."

The attacks on the UN came the day after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed concern about reports that Gbagbo forces planned a new operation in Abobo.

"A curfew has been imposed and the forces loyal to Mr Gbagbo are attempting to force UNOCI military and police units dispatched to protect civilians to leave the area," Ban's office said in a statement.

"Any attacks on United Nations peacekeepers are unacceptable," the UN said, warning that those responsible "will be held responsible for their actions".


Ivory Coast's military remains loyal to Gbagbo, who the world says was beaten by Ouattara in November.

The UN says that over 200 people have died in the crisis so far, with African-led efforts to mediate the stand-off failing to make any visible progress.

The African Union's mediator, Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, is to return to Abidjan this weekend, he said following talks in Nairobi with AU Commission head Jean Ping.

The Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) regional bloc has said it could use force to oust Gbagbo if he refuses to step down, but a statement from Odinga's office stressed again that this was a "last resort".

Ping and Odinga "expressed their disappointment after the U-turn of Mr Gbagbo who had undertaken to lift the blockade around the hotel where his adversary Mr Ouattara is staying," the statement said.

There are around 9 500 troops in UNOCI and the UN says they face increasing hostility. UN peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy has said he will request 1 000 to 2 000 extra troops in the coming days.

The UN says Gbagbo partisans have prevented it from investigating reports of mass graves filled with Ouattara supporters.

UN rights spokesperson Rupert Colville said another alleged mass grave had been reported at Issia, near the central-western town of Daloa but "the UN has not been able to verify its existence at this point," he said.

  • Lestor - 2011-01-13 23:47

    This is a golden opportunity for the U.N. to prove to the world they are not a useless spineless toothless organization. I understand they are not a military force but rather a peace keeping force but even so. Triple the numbers of peace keepers there tell them to not be shy with the rubber bullets and the tear gas and real bullets if the situation calls for it. Enforce peace, don't mildly suggest it. You don't break up a fight by asking people not to hit each other, you get in there and over power both sides, if either side takes a swing you forcefully subdue them. If you cannot show them who is boss why wouldn't some dictator take a swing.

      Arsenefaithful - 2011-01-14 00:26

      @Lestor. I somehow agree with you, even though the UN is a world power house of social, economic and military cooperation. Toothless? Questionable. The UN has enforced peace on multiple fronts in Africa, The Middle East and Europe. Without the UN, we have no representation of the global community. Let's be logical and agree Gbagbo is a tyrant. If anything, let's support the UN and her allies to do all they can to avoid military intervention (but go for it, if needed). Nigeria needs to step up to the plate and provide unconditional military support to the UN, AU in Ivory Coast. Only then can an UN led force hit out at Gbagbo.

      Lestor - 2011-01-14 09:50

      Agreed on all counts, perhaps toothless was the wrong choice of words, they only appear toothless because they are not a military force, a peace keeping force has a totally different role.

  • Clinton - 2011-01-14 07:50

    So how long is it still going to be before someone finally forces Gbagbo to stop his nonsense and step down? How many more innoccent civilians (who used their constitutional rights to elect their prefered leader) must still die? Does anyone else on this site also get the impression that the UN is as weak as a one-day-old lamb? It's time to face-up to your promise to protect people! Stop standing around and start driving out the aggressor!

      Lestor - 2011-01-14 09:45

      The thing is they are not weak, the U.N. is very capable. The problem is that they are a peace keeping force and not a military one. They are not allowed to force out anyone. They are there to keep the peace until the situation stabilizes. It's a good thing, the world needs them, but because they are not there to attack it often seems they are weak. I am one of those that feel sometimes the best way to defend innocents is to attack to corrupt but thats not the U.N.'s job.

  • gmck21 - 2011-01-14 09:05

    It will be another genocide that the UN will stand by and watch happen... then they will say "our mandate did not afford us the ability to help the civilians affected" Just like in Rwanda.. Grow some balls UN and shoot these pricks before they kill you and destroy another african state!

  • wgibsonsa - 2011-01-14 10:04

    As I have mentioned before. The UN and there leader Ban Ki-moon are a bunch of pussies. More interested in sitting in there bases eating and drinking and looking for prostitutes. Useless waste of time and money.

  • thabo.poto - 2011-01-14 11:44

    Gbagbo must be removed by force, nogotiating his exist wont help. Thats another Mugabe there, he overstayed his welcome.

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