Crowd attacks UN peacekeepers in Côte d’Ivoire

By agency reporter
29 Dec 2010

A large crowd has attacked a three-vehicle convoy of the United Nations peacekeeping force in Côte d’Ivoire in the commercial capital of Abidjan, slashing one soldier with a machete and setting one of the vehicles on fire.

The attack happened on 28 December in the Yopougon neighbourhood of Abidjan, when the convoy carrying 22 soldiers of the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) was on its way from the country’s interior.

Calm was restored after the intervention of the defence and security forces chief of staff, General Philippe Mangou, UNOCI said in a statement, “UNOCI vigorously condemns this attack and reiterates its determination to pursue its work in the service of the Ivorian people,” the statement added.

The UN envoy in Côte d’Ivoire, meanwhile, met with the presidents of three West African States who are in the country to deliver a message from regional leaders urging Laurent Gbagbo to hand over power to the winner of the presidential election, Alassane Ouattara.

Y J Choi, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Côte d’Ivoire, briefed presidents Yayi Boni of Benin, Pedro Pires of Cape Verde and Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone on the electoral process in which Mr Ouattara emerged as the winner. Mr Gbagbo, the outgoing president, has refused to step down insisting that he was the victor of the run-off poll held on 28 November.

The three presidents are in Côte d’Ivoire to deliver a messaged from leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), who met in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, on Friday and recognised Mr. Ouattara as the duly elected president, while demanding that Mr. Gbagbo relinquish power.

At the ECOWAS summit in Abuja, the leaders envisaged a possible military intervention to restore constitutional order in Côte d’Ivoire.

The UN and the wider international community have also recognised Mr. Ouattara as the rightful president of Côte d’Ivoire.

In a related development, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today convened a video conference with UNOCI’s leadership and Alain Le Roy, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, who is visiting the West African country, focusing on the post-electoral crisis.

Mr Le Roy arrived in Abidjan yesterday and met with Mr Ouattara and other officials. He told a news conference that his request to meet with Mr Gbagbo was not acknowledged by the outgoing president’s office.

Le Roy is in Côte d’Ivoire primarily to show support for UNOCI at a time when it is working with limited resources to address the difficult political situation facing the country. The mission is also confronted with a population and political leaders “who are partially hostile to its presence,” Mr Le Roy said.

Meanwhile, the UN refugee agency today reported that Ivorian refugees continue to flee into eastern Liberia’s Nimba County.

Staff of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and local authorities have recorded a total of 15,120 refugees from western Cote d'Ivoire, and there are reports that another 4,000 people have arrived, the agency said.

The majority of the refugees are women and children, with 62 per cent of them listed as being under the age of 18. The refugees told UNHCR that they fled because they fear that the political deadlock could lead to civil war.

The influx is straining the resources of the host communities amid limited supplies of clean water, shelter and food. UNHCR teams are distributing emergency aid across nearly 20 villages.

[Ekk/4]

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