Ouattara says rival Gbagbo ordered I Coast violence


PARIS/ABIDJAN – Ivory Coast’s presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara said on Thursday he had proof his rival, Laurent Gbagbo, had instigated post-election violence and ordered foreign agents to carry out killings.
There was no immediate reaction from Gbagbo’s camp but the United Nations said the confirmed death toll from the violence had risen to 210 and condemned the blocking of investigators trying to probe reports of further killings.
Ivory Coast has been in turmoil since a Nov. 28 presidential election that Western powers and African states say was won by Ouattara. Gbagbo has held on to power and called for U.N. forces to leave the country, a moved rejected by the world body, which on Wednesday called for an extra 1,000-2,000 peacekeepers to bolster the existing force of 10,000 soldiers and policemen. “Laurent Gbagbo has blood on his hands. He has ordered assassinations of citizens by foreign agents,” Ouattara told Europe 1 radio. “Of course, we have proof of this.”
“I have already written to the Secretary General of the United Nations to ask that the International Criminal Court send a team of investigators to Ivory Coast, and I am told that this will be done in coming days.”
Human rights groups and diplomats have said there are pro-Gbagbo Liberian mercenaries in Ivory Coast but Gbagbo’s camp has always denied the charges.
The International Criminal Court has said it is monitoring the situation in Ivory Coast.
The U.N. had said that post-election violence had killed 170, but citing new information and further violence, including clashes that killed 14 in the western town of Duekoue, the U.N. mission has raised the death toll to 210. Simon Munzu, the head of the human rights division in the U.N. mission, said on Thursday the real figure was likely to be even higher. “We want the international community to do everything it can to put a stop to this violence,” he said.
PRESSURE ON ECOWAS: There are reports of at least two mass graves in Ivory Coast but investigators have been blocked from accessing them by masked pro-Gbagbo gunmen. “Those who are blocking our investigations must remove these blockages,” Munzu said. Ouattara, who is living in a hotel compound to which road access remains blocked despite a Gbagbo promise to the contrary, said more than 1,000 had been injured in the violence.
He said that a recount proposed by Gbagbo was out the question and ECOWAS, a group of West African states, had a duty to follow through on its threat of military intervention if Gbagbo did not step down by the end of January. “They cannot make commitments without following up on them.”
However, any such operation would be highly complex and is littered with logistical and political obstacles, so is likely to be some time off. Gbagbo retains the loyalty of the armed forces but his authority has been rejected by West Africa’s central bank, something that may eventually make it difficult for him to pay their wages.