Ivory Coast strike call falls flat
Abidjan - An attempt by would-be Ivory Coast president Alassane Ouattara to call a general strike to force strongman Laurent Gbagbo from office appeared to have failed on Monday, AFP reporters said.
As the sun came up over the sprawling commercial capital Abidjan after a low-key Christmas weekend, the streets resounded to honking car horns and street vendors' cries and were snarled by the city's habitual tail-backs.
From the chic, leafy northern suburb of Cocody - where Gbagbo has his home - to the bustling, low-rent southern district of Treichville beside one of West Africa's major ports, the city was at work.
Even districts that voted heavily for Ouattara, like the poor northern suburb of Abobo, were busy. In Koumassi, which lies across the lagoon from Ouattara's besieged headquarters, the huge street market was open.
Both Gbagbo and Ouattara claim to have won Ivory Coast's November 28 presidential run-off but, while the latter has been recognised by the international community, Gbabgo still holds the levers of power.
Ouattara's party, the RHDP, called late on Sunday for a general strike to force Gbagbo from office but the call fell flat. It was not clear whether this was because the party lacks support, or because it failed to get its message out.
Gbagbo's security forces have the city in an iron grip and a previous bid to stage a protest march was met by deadly force and - according to UN rights monitors - overnight murders and kidnappings in pro-Ouattara districts.
Having apparently seen of the strike challenge, Gbagbo must now meet Tuesday with a delegation of West African leaders who are coming to ask him to step down, backed by a threat of regional military intervention.