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Côte d'Ivoire

Gbagbo calls on rivals to disarm as UN accuses army of atrocities

Reuters/Luc Gnago
3 min

Côte d’Ivoire’s disputed President Laurent Gbagbo wants his opponents to disarm and begin dialogue, according to a statement on Friday. The call for talks came after the United Nations accused Gbagbo’s security forces of possible crimes against humanity for a shell attack on a market in Abidjan.

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Dialogue is “the only guarantee of a peaceful outcome to the crisis, the only way to preserve the safety of citizens,” according to a statement read by Gbagbo’sspokesperson on state television.

Gbagbo is waiting for the African Union to appoint its high representative to Côte d’Ivoire before he considers “inter-Ivorian dialogue”.

The statement described supporters of Gbagbo’s rival Alassane Ouattara as rebels and called on them to “stop the violence”.

It also accused Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan of sending mercenaries into Côte d’Ivoire to back pro-Ouattara forces, and warned that Gbagbo “will not hesitate to use his legitimate right of defence in case of atrocities committed against the Ivorians”.

The statement came after the UN mission in Côte d’Ivoire, Onuci, said an attack on Thursday on a market in the Abobo district of Abidjan may have been a crime against humanity.

Around 100 people were killed or injured by at least six 81mm mortar shells, according to Onuci, which accuses Gbagbo’s security forces of firing the shells.

Gbagbo’s spokesperson Ahoua Don Mello denies the claims. He told the AFP news agency that the accusations were part of a conspiracy between Ouattara’s supporters, the UN and France to oust Gbagbo from power.

The French foreign ministry condemned Thursday’s attack as “a deliberate massacre of civilians”.

France is pushing the UN to adopt tougher sanctions against Gbagbo’s government, according to a diplomatic source cited by Reuters.

A regional court ruled on Friday that West African bloc Ecowas could not use force in Côte d'Ivoire, after a lawsuit was filed on Gbagbo's behalf.

Judges in Abuja, Nigeria, said that once an Ecowas member had brought a dispute before the court, other members were forbidden to take any action likely to aggravate that dispute. The case has been adjourned until 9 May.

Both Gbagbo and Ouattara's factions have been accused of human rights abuses in the post-election violence in Côte d'Ivoire, which has so far killed at least 410 people.

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