Ivory Coast state TV under tight guard

2010-12-16 13:11

Abidjan - Troops and police loyal to Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo sealed off state television headquarters in Abidjan on Thursday ahead of a planned attempt by one of his rivals to seize the airwaves.

Gbagbo and his rival Alassane Ouattara both claimed victory in last month's presidential election, and the latter has called on his supporters to march on RTI television and take control on behalf of his shadow government.

Ouattara has been recognised as president by the United Nations and broader international community, but Gbagbo still has the army and police on his side and well-armed troops were deployed in numbers to protect the station.

A cordon of armoured cars blocked both ends of the street running in front of the RTI building in the plush Abidjan suburb of Cocody, their guns turned outwards towards the streets from which any protest would come.

Alongside were police and soldiers armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles.

But at 08:00 (08:00 GMT), beyond the cordon, life continued as normal. Taxis and buses ferried commuters to work in the commercial capital, merchants set up small market stalls and some locals enjoyed a morning jog.

Former colonial power France, which recognises Ouattara, urged both sides to show restraint, one day after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned that the mounting tension could push Ivory Coast back into civil war.