April 4, 2011

France Sends More Troops As Ivory Coast Worsens! Gbagbo LOST ELECTION! This Ego Maniac Needs To Step Down!

The Telegraph UK
written by Aislinn Laing
Sunday April 3, 2011

France has sent more troops to Ivory Coast amid concerns that thousands more people could be killed as the country's presidential rivals fight an increasingly bloody battle for power.

The former colonial power in Ivory Coast has taken control of the airport in Abidjan, the economic capital at the centre of the struggle, and sent 300 troops to add to the 1,200 already stationed as a peacekeeping force.

The French deployment, part of a 9,000-strong United Nations force in the West African county, is also guarding 1,650 expatriates that were moved into its compound as security deteriorated in recent days.

Meanwhile, most of Abidjan's five million inhabitants remain barricaded in their homes, enduring dwindling power, water and food supplies to escape stray bullets and armed looters.

Some 450 people were estimated to have been killed in the four months following November's disputed election, but the discovery of mass graves and the urban warfare now unfolding in Abidjan have raised fears of thousands more lives lost.

Alassane Ouattara, who is internationally recognised as the new president but who has been unable to unseat Laurent Gbagbo following the election, is facing uncomfortable questions from international backers about his soldiers' role in a civilian massacres in a Western town occupied by them in recent days.

Yesterday, the United Nations said those fighting for Mr Ouattara were to blame for at least 200 deaths in Duekoue the day after it fell to his troops. Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary-general, telephoned Mr Ouattara to demand an explanation.

Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, called on Mr Ouattara's supporters to "respect the rules of war" but fell short of criticising him.

"President Ouattara's troops must live up to the ideals and vision articulated by their elected leader," she said.

Seydou Ouattara, a spokesman for Mr Ouattara's Republican Forces, said they had killed only "militia and not civilians". "From the moment they are armed, they are considered combatants. We must avoid all confusion," he said.

Alex Vines, Ivory Coast expert at Chatham House, said: "The Duekoue incident shows the complexity of Ivorian politics and will make everyone more cautious about the assumption that Mr Ouattara and his forces are democratic and accountable and Mr Gbagbo's are not," he said. "The only moral high ground in this is the election result."

In broadcasts on state television, supporters of Mr Gbagbo said the French move amounted to an invasion. It incited all Ivorians to attack them and to form a human shield around Mr Gbagbo's residence.

"A Rwandan genocide is being prepared in Ivory Coast by men led by [French President] Nicolas Sarkozy," said a state radio broadcast. "The French Army is taking over [Abidjan] airport – we are in danger."

Troops fighting for Mr Ouattara were last night preparing a major assault to unseat Mr Gbagbo from his presidential residence in the city.

After sweeping though the country with little opposition and entering Abidjan four days ago, they came up against his 2,000-strong Republic Guard force armed with tanks, rocket launchers, rocket propelled grenades and machine guns, backed by students from his Young Patriots movement.

Mr Gbagbo still holds the state television headquarters, the presidential palace and residence and a number of security bases. On Saturday, Mr Gbagbo's troops launched a three-hour attack on the UN's base in the city. The UN has now moved to evacuate its 200 remaining civilian staff.

But it is also being urged by Western diplomats to step up efforts to save civilian lives in Abidjan.

"Gbagbo's forces are hitting civilian buildings with [rocket propelled grenades]," said one. "The UN should act to take out these weapons. It's within its remit and if it did so, this could be over in a day or two."

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