Côte d’Ivoire: UN mission deplores excessive use of force against demonstrators

22 February 2011

The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Côte d’Ivoire today deplored the excessive use of force against demonstrators in the city of Abidjan and surrounding areas over the past couple of days, saying the violence had left dozens of people dead or wounded.

The mission (UNOCI) condemned the disproportionate use of force by security forces, who it said used heavy weapons against the demonstrators.

“UNOCI calls on all parties to exercise restraint at a time when political and diplomatic efforts are under way at the highest level to find a peaceful solution to the Ivorian post-electoral crisis,” the mission said in a press release.

Côte d’Ivoire descended into turmoil in early December when Mr. Laurent Gbagbo, the outgoing president, refused to leave office despite opposition leader Allasane Ouattara’s UN-certified victory in the presidential elections. Mr. Ouattara has been recognized by the international community as the duly elected president.

The head of UNOCI’s police component has warned that Gbagbo loyalist militias may be preparing for civil war. “The Gbagbo clan has a long tradition of mobilizing militias and being very hostile and having armed mobs which it is at present trying to rally,” Commissioner Jean-Marie Bourry told the UN News Centre last week. “Everything leads us to believe that we are seeing preparations for a civil war.”

The election was meant to be the culminating point in reunifying the country, which was split by civil war in 2002 into a Government-controlled south and a rebel-held north.

Mr. Gbagbo has demanded the withdrawal of the 9,000-strong UNOCI. Not only has the UN refused this but the Security Council last month, in a unanimous resolution adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which allows for the use of force, authorized the immediate deployment of an additional 2,000 troops and three armed helicopters.

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