Video shows brutal crackdown on women protesters

2011-03-05 15:51

Video footage of how women were gunned down by soldiers backing Ivory Coast’s strongman, Laurent Gbagbo, has exposed the extent of army abuse and prompted a ­shockwave of criticism.

The footage was obtained by Associated Press on Friday.

The grainy footage captures the minutes before the attack on Thursday in the troubled Abobo neighbourhood, where thousands of women participated in an all-women march demanding Gbagbo’s departure. At least six women were killed.

In the video, which was also posted on YouTube, a set of successive booms is heard as women wave branches in the air in protest.

The cameraman then pans over the collapsed bodies of at least four women. The head of one of them has been torn off and people rush to cover it with a piece of cloth.

Another, who is still alive, tries to lift herself up and collapses in her own blood.

It was not immediately possible to show the video to witnesses for verification, but the ­images match the accounts of multiple people who were present during the ­incident.

The spokesperson for Ivory Coast’s military, Colonel Hilaire Gohourou, denied any army ­involvement. He read a statement on state TV calling it “a lie spread by the international media”.

A government spokesperson ­followed with a second denial, blaming street battles on “terrorists helped by the logistical and technical assistance of Unoci (the UN peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast)”.

Gbagbo was shown on TV as well in footage from a Thursday meeting with advisers.

“People have sought for a long time to dominate Ivory Coast,” he said. “I will not allow Ivory Coast to submit. As for me, I’m hanging in there,” he said.

Gbagbo was declared the loser of the November 28 presidential ­election by his country’s electoral commission, a result that was ­subsequently certified by the UN.

For three months, the army which remains loyal to the 65-year-old former history teacher, have led a campaign of terror against those who voted for Gbagbo’s ­challenger, Alassane Ouattara.

In a dangerous escalation of the hostilities, pro-Ouattara neighbourhoods have also taken up arms, especially in Abobo, a ­section of which is now off limits to ­Gbagbo’s forces.

Because Gbagbo’s army has shown almost no restraint in ­opening fire on civilians, women throughout the capital have ­organised marches, believing the soldiers would be too ashamed to shoot at women.

Thursday’s incident transgressed a long-standing tradition where women intervened in political disputes to end violence, ­including during the country’s ­independence struggle.

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