Amnesty International say that they have been told by eyewitnesses that at least nine unarmed protesters were killed on Thursday (16 December) in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, during mass protests over a political deadlock following presidential elections.
The demonstrators were joining the mass street protests called by the internationally recognised president, Alassane Ouattara, following disputed elections. They were marching from various locations in the capital Abidjan in an attempt to seize the state broadcaster Radio Télévision Ivorienne (RTI) ,when security forces opened fire at point blank range.
Amnesty International’s West Africa Researcher, Salvatore Saguès called on the Ivorian security forces to stop the killings immediately.
“Those who opened fire on these people, as well as those who gave the order, will have to account for their acts,” insisted Saguè.
On Tuesday, Allassane Ouattara called for mass street protests to seize the state broadcaster and government buildings, still held by officials loyal to Laurent Gbagbo, who is refusing to leave office.
Eyewitnesses participating in the protests told Amnesty that at least nine people had been killed at two locations.
In Abobo neighbourhood, witnesses said at least six people were shot dead by security forces.
“When we saw security forces near the police station of the 21st arrondissement, we raised our hands and told them that we were unarmed,” said one person who spoke with Amnesty, “They refused to answer and threw tear gas grenades. Then immediately they shot at us. I saw dead bodies in the street. I know three of them.”
Near the Makassi crossroads at around 9am, security officials fired teargas and then opened fire on another group of protesters, killing three people.
“A young man, a car washer, who was not participating in the demonstration, was shot dead by two man wearing military uniforms, with hoods,” said another witness, “The young man was standing in front of the garage waiting for drivers in order to wash their vehicles when two military arrived. One of them tripped him up, he fell down. One of the military who was wearing sunglasses shot at him at point blank with a gun”
Saguès said that “Every effort must be made to prevent an escalation of violence. There is a very real threat that many more lives will be lost if the security forces continue to shoot at protesters indiscriminately”.
Saguès warned that Ivory Coast has never been so close to a resumption of civil war, adding, “Every effort must be made to prevent further escalation of violence that could have a huge impact on the country and on the whole sub-region pushing thousands of people to flee the country”.