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UN demands halt to Ivory Coast killings

In Uncategorized on December 24, 2010 at 5:57 am

The United Nations demanded a halt to the “atrocities” triggered by Ivory Coast’s political crisis that have left 173 dead, and accused Laurent Gbagbo’s troops of harassing its peacekeepers.


And in another blow to Gbagbo’s regime, the Central Bank of West African States said only his rival Alassane Ouattara’s globally recognised government could manage the country’s accounts there.


US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meanwhile repeated Thursday a call for Gbagbo to step down.


UN officials in Abidjan said Gbagbo’s security forces, shielded by civilian protesters and backed by unidentified masked gunmen, had prevented human rights monitors from probing reports of at least two new mass graves.


They said gangs of gunmen had carried out murderous overnight raids on civilians living in the poorest districts of Abidjan.


UN peacekeepers in Ivory Coast man a position near a line of barbed wire at the entrance of the UNOCI headquarters in Abidjan.

“The situation is sufficiently disturbing for everyone to take it seriously and do something about it,” said Simon Munzu, UN human rights director in Abidjan.


“We’ve been stopped virtually every time we’ve tried to go into the field.”


In Geneva, the UN Human Rights Council voted to condemn “the atrocities and violations of human rights committed in Ivory Coast”, citing killing, kidnaps, sexual violence, repression of protests and destruction of property.


In a statement to the council, Clinton said: “We reiterate our call for former President Laurent Gbagbo to step down immediately.


“The United States joins the international community in condemning the growing violence, the grave human rights violations, and the deterioration of security in Cote d’Ivoire,” she added.


The UNOCI peacekeeping force also complained that Gbagbo’s camp continued to besiege the waterfront Abidjan hotel where Alassane Ouattara’s rival government is holed up, protected by 800 UN troops.


Gbagbo and Ouattara have been in a standoff since a November 28 presidential election, which both claim to have won. Ouattara has been recognised by the UN Security Council, but Gbagbo is determined to cling to power.


“Serious human rights abuses and intimidation continue to be reported in several districts of Abidjan. The toll of dead, wounded and missing is rising rapidly,” UNOCI spokesman Hamadoun Toure told reporters.


Human Rights Watch said it had recorded the same crimes.


But Gbagbo’s regime remained defiant, calling on supporters to resist international pressure.


“It’s a battle,” Gbagbo’s powerful wife Simone told lawmakers. “War is being waged on us in several forms. If we do not want to be crushed, we should raise our heads, resist and have confidence in ourselves.”


But in a further blow to Gbagbo, seven finance ministers representing the other countries in the West African Monetary Union said only Ouattara’s government could deal with their shared central bank.


The decision could threaten Gbagbo’s camp with a cashflow problem.

Earlier, briefing ambassadors in Geneva, the UN deputy human rights chief said the UN had been able to confirm allegations of 173 killings and 90 cases of torture or ill treatment in Ivory Coast in the past week.

Munzu said the true toll might be much higher because Gbagbo’s troops had blocked attempts by his staff to investigate reports of two major mass graves — one allegedly holding 60 to 80 bodies, the other 30.

“We get to a roadblock, manned by heavily armed elements of the Defence and Security Forces, with whom are associated hooded people who we don’t know,” he told reporters at UNOCI headquarters in Abidjan.

The Defence and Security Forces (FDS) are police and army regulars loyal to Gbagbo. They have been deployed to prevent protests by Alassane supporters.

“And to this is added civilians, including children, who would tomorrow be classified as ‘collateral damage’ if we tried to force our way” past roadblocks, Munzu said.

Asked if the United Nations had confirmed reports that Liberian mercenaries were in Abidjan, spokesman Toure said: “Our patrols have met a group of people speaking English and claiming to be Liberian.”

He said the group was seen at night in Abidjan and was “heavily armed”.

Toure said pro-Gbagbo security forces were blocking UN patrols and supply convoys, intimidating UN police and besieging Ouattara’s base in the Golf Hotel, “supported by masked individuals with rocket launchers.”

UNOCI was having trouble finding fuel or getting flights into Abidjan airport, but promised that the force would stay on, he added.

Nigeria will host a meeting of the Economic Community of West African States in Abuja, and US officials say an appeal will be made for new troops to reinforce the hard-pressed UN peacekeepers.

Ivory Coast football star Didier Drogba issued a statement on behalf of the national team calling for an end to the violence.

Source: SGGP

UN renews Ivory Coast force mandate

In Uncategorized on December 21, 2010 at 9:33 am

The UN Security Council extended the mandate of UN peacekeepers in Ivory Coast in defiance of Laurent Gbagbo’s calls that the force leave as world powers made new calls for him to stand down as leader.


Amidst UN accusations that the strongman’s followers had been involved in killings and that his entourage had hired mercenaries, the Security Council made its most explicit sign of support yet for opposition leader Alassane Ouattara as the rightful president.


The European Union imposed sanctions on Gbagbo, his wife and 17 other Ivorians, the United States said it was preparing new action against him.


The UN Security Council also warned that it could order “targeted” sanctions and reinforce the 10,000-strong UNOCI peacekeeping force.


Nearly all the international community has recognized Ouattara as winner of Ivory Coast’s November 28 election and fears of a repeat of the country’s 2002 civil war have grown as Gbagbo has clung to the presidential palace.

UN peacekeepers patrol near the UNOCI headquarters in Abidjan on December 20, 2010.

The UN has accused Gbagbo’s security forces of involvement in dozens of alleged kidnappings and murders.


UN peacekeeping supremo Alain Le Roy warned that the UN force faced a “dangerous” confrontation with Gbagbo and accused the disputed leader of using mercenaries.


“It is clear that President Gbagbo’s camp is doing everything to make life difficult for us, including by blocking our supplies and by harassing our personnel, and carrying out provocations, some armed,” Le Roy told AFP.


“They want to cut all of our fuel. They are forcing us to leave the apartments we use,” added the UN under secretary general after briefing the UN Security Council on the UN mission in Ivory Coast, UNOCI.


“There is direct harassment of UNOCI. They are really trying to make our life difficult, they want to make it impossible.”


Security Council resolution 1962 warned that UN might more troops “as may be needed” from other peacekeeping missions and it called on countries to be ready to help any new appeal for forces.


It said the Security Council was ready “to impose measures, including targeted sanctions, against persons who, among other things, threaten the peace process and national reconciliation.”


UN peacekeepers and France’s 900-strong force continued to patrol the streets of Abidjan and to protect the Golf hotel where Ouattara has set up his base.


UNOCI chief Choi Young-jin accused Gbagbo’s troops of blockading the Golf Hotel and “on and off denying access to food and water supply trucks.”


He complained that gunmen in military uniform opened fire on a UN patrol, and said the Gbagbo camp had sent armed young men to intimidate UN staff in their homes at night.


Gbagbo and Ouattara have both declared themselves president, but the Gbagbo retains control of the armed forces and the presidential palace.


Ouattara is backed by the former rebels that control areas north of a 2003 ceasefire line but in the south, home to the cocoa ports that dominate Ivory Coast’s economy, he is confined to the Golf Hotel.


Meanwhile, in the poor suburbs of Abidjan, there are reports of gangs in uniform raiding houses at night and killing suspected Ouattara backers.

On Sunday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay expressed concern about “the growing evidence of massive violations of human rights”.

“In the past three days there has been more than 50 people killed, and over 200 injured,” she said.”

Pillay said “armed individuals in military uniform accompanied by elements of the Defence and Security Forces (FDS) or militia groups” took people at night and some were “found dead in questionable circumstances.”

Gbagbo’s interior minister, Emile Guirieoulou, rejected accused the UN of producing a “partisan report” about alleged rights abuses.

“The violence of the past few days has seen around 14 members of the Defence and Security Forces shot dead. That is not said often enough,” he told AFP.

The Ivorians sanctioned by the European Union include top presidential advisers, senior security officials and military officers, the head of state television, Gbagbo’s wife Simone and her chief bodyguard.

France urged Gbagbo to restrain his forces, and warned that the French peacekeeping contingent will protect its estimated 15,000 expatriate citizens there.

In Washington, the Barack Obama administration urged Gbagbo to step down and threatened sanctions against him and his family within days, saying there is no doubt he had lost a disputed presidential vote.

“The election was clear, its result was clear, and it’s time for him to go,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

Source: SGGP

Hai Phong customs seize more ivory

In Uncategorized on May 27, 2010 at 5:08 am
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