Another War of Jenkins' Ear

Resist The Pointless

Posts Tagged ‘Gbagbo

Cote D’Ivoire / Ivory Coast Running Thread (4/6)

leave a comment »

A family sharing one tent in Liberian refugee camp, along the Ivory Coast border

10:00 EDT: I ended yesterday’s thread speculating that eventually Ouattara’s forces may just try to kick the door in on the bunker where Gbagbo is hiding. Well:

Forces loyal to Ivory Coast presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara launched a heavy attack on Wednesday on the bunker where Laurent Gbagbo was defying efforts to force him to cede power, residents said.

“The fighting is terrible here, the explosions are so heavy my building is shaking,” Alfred Kouassi, who lives near Gbagbo’s residence in the commercial capital Abidjan, told Reuters.

“We can hear automatic gunfire and also the thud of heavy weapons. There’s shooting all over the place. Cars are speeding in all directions and so are the fighters,” he said.

[. . .]

A spokeswoman for Ouattara’s forces said Ouattara’s fighters were storming Gbagbo’s residence, where Gbagbo has been holed up since Ouattara’s forces swept into Abidjan backed by helicopter strikes by the United Nations and France.

“They are in the process of entering the residence to seize Gbagbo,” Affousy Bamba told Reuters. “They have not taken him yet, but they are in the process.”

Residents however said militias close to Gbagbo and his presidential guard were putting up a stiff resistance, even as most soldiers from the regular army had heeded a call to lay down their arms.

What led to this? Gbagbo’s obstinance.

Negotiations led by the United Nations and France aimed at securing the departure of Ivory Coast’s Laurent Gbagbo have failed, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said on Wednesday.

“The negotiations which were carried out for hours yesterday between the entourage of Laurent Gbagbo and Ivorian authorities have failed because of Gbagbo’s intransigence,” Juppe told parliament.

Considering that yesterday Ouattara allies were comparing Gbagbo to one of the Nazis, This probably means he’s probably going to be put on trial in Cote D’Ivoire. But it also is another reason for his supporters to resist the legitimacy of Ouattara.

10:05 EDT: The EU are adding new sanctions to Gbagbo’s government. Seems a little late, but whatever.

10:10 EDT: Both FM Juppe and a military spokesman in Abidjan say that the French are not involved in the assault on the Presidential Palace. Two UN helicopters are flying low overhead the area where the palace is, though.

This is another reminder that Ouattara likely cannot solve the multitude of problems left in Gbagbo’s wake:

There are now real fears the violence in Ivory Coast could set off a fresh round of regional carnage. Mercenaries and militia who backed the regime of Laurent Gbabgo, the deposed president, have been fleeing across the largely unguarded border with Liberia -raising the prospect they will soon begin building bases there from which a fresh campaign can be mounted.

Former Liberian soldiers, thousands of whom were demobilized after the civil war ended there, are said to have received cash offers to bolster Gbabgo’s militias in southern Ivory Coast.  Burkina Faso, where ethnic groups are closely linked to those in northern Ivory Coast, could also find itself sucked into the fighting.

And there’s more bad news.

For one, Ouattara’s triumphant forces haven’t been able to stamp out inter-ethnic clashes. Killings have been reported in the towns of Bangolo, Man and Danane by Medicines Sans Frontieres, the French NGO.

Human rights groups have already documented atrocities by both sides. In March, Gbabgo’s forces butchered at least 37 immigrant workers then Ouattara’s forces murdered nine unarmed supporters of Gbabgo. Last week, Ouattara called on his supporters to refrain from committing atrocities, but it is unclear if the president-elect, a U.S.-educated economist and banker with no real military authority, has the influence to stop the loosely organized forces backing him from settling local feuds.

These are serious, systemic problems that will take monumental resolve to even begin to solve.

10:20 EDT: Al Jazeera has a fantastic interview with journalist Ayo Johnson, who looks at this problem and also broader problems in Africa.

But why does this keep happening in Africa? All the stereotypes and generalisations aside, similar events have occurred in Kenya, Zimbabwe, Cote d’Ivoire and Gabon within a few years of each other.

It is embarrassing and sad – but the reality is that African politics and democracy is at a crossroad. For some countries who I would like to describe as fragile states, fragile because a few have come through war, others have had coups, others have had repeated cycles of poor leadership and bad governance. And the conditions that lead to their fragility is ever so apparent. Hence many of such countries are in recovery mode and if not nurtured and supported could easily slip into their bad ways. This is a fact with Ivory Coast. Currently there are only a handful of African countries that meet the grade of governance – South Africa, Africa super power, Ghana, bright and sparkling and Nigeria aspiring to reach its potential and well on track.

These are a few countries that have met international acceptable standards of governance. Africa as a whole has a long way to go in terms of being responsible and accountable. But with time the African continent can change and be seen to change and the rest of the world will see its better and progressive side.

Q. How do these ”fragile countries” break out of these cycles?

There is also a responsibility from the population to be far more educated to understand that during an election do not vote purely on tribal lines. As is ever so apparent across Africa where most vote for the man or woman that belongs to their tribe and cultural affiliation rather that the person who has the best policies. There is a need for the populace to become more educated and to choose wisely with their vote and understand the ramification of the choices they make and how best to use their vote.

Finally the electoral process of choosing a president or a leader for a country should be organised and controlled by ECOWAS. They should work closely with the electoral commission and the decision should be final. This way Disputes will be minimal and there will not be a risk that the process ha been compromised or sabotaged by tribalism or cultural affiliation

In any democracy, the cure for almost any problem is the voters becoming more informed. That’s easier said than done, though. See: the United States.

10:30 EDT: Andrew Harding on the siege:

A negotiated ending might have helped ease tensions in this bitterly divided country. After all, Mr Gbagbo won 46% of the vote in the recent election.

But he seems to have over played a weak hand, and so a more forceful denouement beacons, and with it the real risk of greater instability.

What will his militias do if Mr Gbagbo is killed, or dragged out and humiliated?

Civilians, still trapped in Abidjan, say there has been sporadic gunfire across the city, with pro-Gbagbo militias still on the streets, and Ouattara force’s still “mopping up” opposition at several military installations.

This is definitely not the way this should end.

10:40 EDT: I have not mentioned it before, but Ouattara forces have been ordered not to kill Gbagbo. And I’ve seen a lot of calls for him to be tried, but very few, if any, that he should be killed. In this situation a lot of things are possible (and it just takes one soldier and one bullet), but I don’t think that’s the intent of Ouattara forces, by any stretch. They want him tried.

10:50 EDT: A must read piece in the Times by novelist Fatou Keita:

Some days earlier, looters had invaded our parking lot. We watched them from our windows, hidden behind our curtains, powerless. They were intent on stealing our cars: all the windows were broken, the interiors pillaged. “Give us the keys!” one shouted up to us. “If we have to go in there, you’ll be sorry!” They tried several times to drive off with my car, but as stubborn as its owner, it refused to start and they had to give up. Three other cars were taken, but thank heavens, the bandits didn’t try to force open the door to our building.

By the end of our meeting, we had decided that in case of an attack on our building, we would give the alarm by beating on our pots and pans. We also set hours for taking out the trash and going out to look for food when it was possible.

The days are long because, obviously, we are confined to our homes by the gunfire. When the shooting is heavy, I yell at everyone to lie flat in the hallway. My little granddaughter is terrified. Some of my neighbors have bullets in their walls.

The end is a reminder that, for people in Abidjan, this crisis is not over yet.

–A good map in French of the situation in Abidjan.

11:05 EDT: CAFOD, a Catholic aid agency in England, posted some pictures of the refugees. I’d recommend giving to Oxfam before any religious organization (less strings, better reputation) but this is definitely a “all hands on deck” sort of situation. And honestly, any visibility the refugees get along these lines is good visibility.

11:15 EDT: Max Fisher at the Atlantic writes the first comparison of Libya and Cote D’Ivoire that didn’t make me want to pull my hair out. Quite an accomplishment:

Today, the U.S. and France are leading two large-scale, primarily humanitarian interventions, both in Africa. While neither conflict — Côte d’Ivoire and Libya — has yet resolved, and while their immediate as well as long-term damage are not yet clear, in both cases the international intervention appears to have been of tremendous value for three reasons. The civilian death toll, though high in both countries, would likely have been far higher without the United Nations-approved action. Second, intervention looks like it may be able to drastically hasten what could have otherwise been far longer conflict. And perhaps most importantly, the interventions send an important message to the despots and would-be despots of the world that stealing an election or slaughtering one’s own people just became a great deal riskier.

It’s impossible to know what would have happened in Côte d’Ivoire without intervention. But the country looked set to at least return to the civil war of 2004, plunging the country that had become an African success story into yet another of the bloody, sectarian-tinged, insurgent-heavy wars that have plagued West Africa for decades. President Laurent Gbagbo, refusing to cede power after losing his election, would have faced little opposition as loyalist forces and mercenaries mowed down one peaceful protest after another. The corpses dumped along roadsides, in a grisly ritual meant to quietly purge the nation of 20 million of all political opposition, would have continued to mount. As Gbagbo nationalized natural resources and as fighting made the cities, once areas of manufacturing and a slowly growing middle class, inhospitable, this once-vibrant African economy would have headed for collapse.

Côte d’Ivoire’s economy will likely take years to recover. But the armed conflict, which looked ready to drag on for years and to create sectarian tension between the Muslim north and Christian south that could have lasted even longer, appears headed for an imminent and possibly decisive conclusion after only four months. Gbagbo, now holed up in a bunker for the third straight day, hasagreed to negotiate the terms of his surrender and departure. His generals are calling for a cease fire. A United Nations and French assault has crippled his forces and paved the way for fighters loyal to Alassane Ouattara, the rightful winner of the presidential election. Months of U.S.- and French-imposed sanctions have devastated Gbagbo’s ability to pay his troops. U.S.-led diplomatic efforts have isolated him regionally and brought the African Union, normally deferential to dictators and loathe to intervene, to take one of its toughest and most unified stands in the body’s history. Now Gbagbo, rather than slowly burning his country down through years of war and dictatorship, appears, as the Wall Street Journal puts it, “on the verge of being ousted.”

I would add this to the pile of things that are changing as the world becomes figuratively smaller. Africa used to be way over there, now it’s immediately accessible via real time media, social or otherwise. That’s not a cure all – there are still factors for intervention to take into account. But now we all (not just people on the ground cabling in) can more easily judge the risks of not intervening before it’s too late. And that’s meaningful.

11:20 EDT: What’s taking so long? Gbagbo supporters are firing heavy weapons:

Mamadou Toure, a Outtara supporter who has been on France 24 TV, says it’s taking so long to capture Gbagbo’s bunker because Gbagbo’s supporters have heavy weapons. Outtara’s forces reportedly have received orders to take the incumbent president alive.

More warnings about a humanitarian crisis in Liberia:

Stephen O’Brien, a UK international development minister who has been at the Bahn camp in Liberia, on the border with Ivory Coast, has warned of an “immediate crisis” and has called on all the international community to help people affected by the violence

–Also, more on what the ICC is doing:

The said the prosecutor has been conducting a preliminary examination and the next step will be for the prosecutor to request authorisation to initiate an investigation but the process would be expedited if a country signed up to the Rome statute refers Ivory Coast to the prosecutor of the international criminal court.

All in all, it seems everything is at a stalemate until Gbagbo is captured.

11:25 EDT: Reports from Abidjan are that UN helicopters flying overhead are not firing on the Gbagbo compound, though Gbagbo allies are trying to spread propaganda that they are. The BBC reports that Gbagbo allies have even called this an assassination attempt, but that Ouattara forces know that things will likely only get worse if Gbagbo is in fact killed.

11:30 EDT: The Assistant Secretary for African Affairs spoke in Washington yesterday about Cote D’Ivoire, and echoed the positions of France and the United Nations, as well as other people within the American government, all the way up to Obama. i didn’t catch anything new regarding Cote D’Ivoire (though the information on Nigeria’s election was interesting).

11:35 EDT: More on the French history in Cote D’Ivoire. (French)

11:40 EDT: Irin provides details on the military supporters of Ouattara:

While military support from the UN and France may have proved pivotal in destroying Gbagbo’s last arsenals, the former rebels known as Forces Nouvelles (FN) made up most of the newly formed Forces Républicaines de Côte d’Ivoire (FRCI), which pushed south into the main city Abidjan after winning remarkably easy victories in the centre, east and south of the country in the past week.

Who are the military forces behind Ouattara and how will they proceed once their side takes power?

At a recent celebratory rally in the political capital Yamoussoukro, Ouattara’s Prime Minister Guillaume Soro introduced the crowd to several FN senior commanders: Soumaila Bakayoko, Cherif Ousmane, Tuo Fozié and Touré Hervé, saluted as being among the architects of the FRCI’s victories. Ouattara supporters also talk of the key role played by Col Miche Gueu. These men are associated with the September 2002 rebellion, which nearly dislodged Gbagbo. The FN – a collective of three rebel factions – made offensives against Korhogo, Bouaké and Abidjan. Their secretary-general and main public voice was a then 30-year-old Soro, known primarily as a former student leader.

Ivoirian critics of Ouattara and Soro have not welcomed the sense of déjà vu. “This man is meant to be a prime minister, but he is forever talking about the need for a military offensive and moving on Abidjan,” a man in the Yopougon District said. Many observers noted the difference between Ouattara’s rhetoric and that of Soro in the weeks after the disputed November 2010 presidential election, with the prime minister much quicker to push for a military solution.

The FN included soldiers, particularly northerners, defecting from the national armed forces, but also combatants from outside Côte d’Ivoire and the `dozo’, traditional warrior hunters – said to have mystical powers – who have long acted as informal community police.

In 2006 one of the FN leaders, Martin Kouakou Fofié, was hit with UN sanctions over allegations of child recruitment, abductions, sexual abuse of women, arbitrary arrests and extra-judicial killings by troops he commanded.

Whatever compromises were made in numerous peace accords signed in the years since the rebellion, the FN have effectively retained control of national territory in the west, north and centre. A longstanding concern of Gbagbo supporters and neutrals has been the existence of a state within a state, whose sovereignty has gone largely unchallenged.

More problems for Ouattara to deal with. With each passing hour, this feels more and more like a Pyrrhic victory.

I’ve also referred to the FRCI constantly here, because that’s what they are now; it’s worth highlighting, though, that this is essentially a re-organized group of what came before: the New Forces, that had, as the excerpt shows, many problems of their own.

–Irin also has a piece on refugees:

Ivoirians who have fled to eastern and southeastern Liberia are choosing to settle in villages rather than camps and transit centres, making them harder to help, say NGO workers.

Most of the 130,000 Ivoirians who have fled into in Liberia since December 2010 are scattered across 90 villages in Nimba and Grand Geddeh counties, according to UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) spokesperson Suleiman Momodu.

Ivoirians feel safest staying with host communities just across the border from their homes, as they may have relatives in these villages or share the same ethnic background, said Anika Krstic, spokesperson with the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) in Liberia’s capital Monrovia.

As a result, a refugee camp in Bahn in Nimba County, 50km from the border, is sheltering some 2,500 refugees, despite being built to house up to 15,000.

Many Ivoirians return to their villages by day to keep up their livelihoods, re-crossing into Liberia at night, said Krstic. “With population movements continually shifting, it’s hard to figure out who has already been registered and who is being registered for the first time,” she added.

Poor roads impede access to many host villages said DRC, which is helping provide water and sanitation in transit centres, where refugees are temporarily housed before finding longer-term shelter.

Not only are there a significant amount of refugees, they’re not even going to be easy to get help to. This sounds like it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

11:55 EDT: Elizabeth Dickson of Foreign Policy tweets that UN investigators found a third possible massacre site in Cote D’Ivoire.

More details from Channel 4:

The man overseeing the UN team investigating mass killings in the Ivory Coast has confirmed to Channel 4 News that in addition to two mass graves which were found in Duekoue in March, reports based on “reliable information” have led the team to investigate a third site in Bloleuquin.  The UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic spoke to Channel 4 News from Abidjan. He had just returned from Duekoue whilst on a week long mission to oversee the investigation into reports of mass killings.

He said “in the second half of March 100 people were killed in Duekoue, and on the 28th March 230 people were killed.”

Whilst Ivan Simonovic did not specifically use the phrase “ethnic cleansing” he told Channel 4 News “here are the hard facts: in the first incident the 100 victims were of a single ethnicity, from the Dioula ethnicity who traditionally support Ouattara, they were found after pro-Gbagbo forces were in control”

“And in the second incident 230 people from the Guerra ethnicity, traditionally supporters of Gbagbo, were killed at the time when Ouattara’s forces were in control.”

Horrifying.

12:15 EDT: Oxfam has a Flickr page with photos from Cote D’Ivoire. The photo at the top of the page is from this set.

–France24 is reporting that Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the prosecutor of the ICC, is officially opening an investigation into “systematic or widespread massacres committed in Côte d’Ivoire.”

12:25 EDT: Kofi Annan, still alive and giving public statements, says that Gbagbo should leave.

12:45 EDT: According to the liveblog of Jeune Afrique, via France24, Gbagbo refused an offer of “legal immunity, a collection of his assets, freedom of movement, and 2 million per year” from African heads of state. Does he think a better offer is coming?

–Ah, the catch, What France 24 didn’t highlight is that this offer was made on March 10, nearly a month ago. That makes the offer much more reasonable. Making that offer now would be idiotic.

12:55 EDT: A military source told Jeune Afrique that the bunker where Gbagbo is has 4-5 layers with men to defend him and enough food to last a year. Wonderful. Exactly what the country needs right now.

–Via AFP, Jeune Afrique reports that Angola still considers Gbagbo the president-elect. Amazing.

1:00 EDT: South Africa, Togo, Angola, and possibly Ethiopia are possible locations for exile for Gbagbo:

South Africa, Togo and Angola are possible safe havens for Ivory Coast’s besieged Laurent Gbagbo should he negotiate an exit from his West African country, African Union (AU) sources said on Wednesday.  “South Africa has offered several times before and Togo is now indicating to us that it could be willing to take him in,” a senior AU official told Reuters.  “Togo is not a great option, though, as there will obviously be fears that he could cause problems and spoil peace from there — it’s so close to Ivory Coast. I’m betting strongly on South Africa,” said the official, who declined to be named.

[. . .]

Another diplomat at the AU in Addis Ababa said Angola was a strong possibility.  “Angola has always been pro-Gbagbo,” one Western diplomat told Reuters. “I think there’s a good likelihood of Angola taking him in if there’s a settlement. You only have to look at their history.”  The United Nations said in March it was investigating suspected arms transfers to Ivory Coast in breach of an embargo, including a cargo delivery from Angola.  There were also regular reports in 2002 that Angola supplied arms including armoured vehicles to Ivory Coast when rebels tried to oust Gbagbo from the presidency.  Angola has denied that mercenaries from the country have fought for Gbagbo.

Diplomats at the AU headquarters in Ethiopia said Uganda was an outside bet to shelter the Ivorian strongman. Long-serving President Yoweri Museveni earlier this year attacked the United Nations for recognising Ouattara as the election winner.

That’s assuming he cuts a deal to give himself exile.

1:15 EDT: The BBC reports that today’s assault on Gbagbo’s residence may have repelled because Ouattara forces could not break through thr heavy weapons on the residence.

1:20 EDT: This Al Jazeera video captures the perspective of Ivorians caught in the crossfire:

1:30 EDT: Gbagbo is rejecting advice of allies to give up and apparently hopes to remain as President.

–A report to France24 indicates that Gbagbo is still broadcasting defiantly on state television. A very rough translation:

“URGENT: President Gbagbo IS NOT IN A BUNKER PALACE AND ITS NOT SENT OR ITS GENERAL ALCIDE DJEDJE ASK ANY PRESENTING AS STATED IN PARIS by François Fillon • URGENT: THE GENERAL AND MANGOU Ksarat NEVER negotiated the surrender of President Gbagbo FROM THE EMBASSY OF France ABIDJAN AS ANNOUNCED ON BFM TV and ITEL by François Fillon • URGENT: THE PRO-OUATTARA were defeated by the pro-Gbagbo NEAR THE PRESIDENTIAL RESIDENCE. • URGENT: President Gbagbo STATED IN PERSON, TUESDAY NIGHT ON LCI, IT REMAINS WELL TO HIS POST AS PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC BECAUSE HE WON THE ELECTION “

–Meanwhile, SOSs are being broadcast here, including one about a two year old child who has not eaten for three days.

–Reuters has also reported that the Ouattara attack on Gbagbo’s residence has been repelled today.

1:45 EDT: The Telegraph has chilling pictures of the assault on Gbagbo’s bunker.

–AFP is also reporting that Ouattara forces have retreated from Gbagbo’s bunker.

–A representative from UNICEF told the BBC that they had to turn back because people were being killed right in front of them.

2:15 EDT: The EU is committed to helping Cote D’Ivoire rebuild. (French link)

The European Union today expressed its readiness to help rebuild the economy and institutions when the Ivorian conflict between the president recognized by the international community and its rival has been set.

“We are ready to consider a range of measures to provide institutional and financial package” for the country, once the political situation stabilizes, “said Minister Delegate for Foreign Affairs Hungarian, Zsolt Nemeth, whose country holds the six-month presidency of the EU. He was speaking before the European Parliament on behalf of the Head of European diplomacy Catherine Ashton, who could not make the trip.

The minister did not elaborate on the proposed European aid. But the needs in Côte d’Ivoire are very important. The country’s economy, which relies heavily on exports of cocoa, has been in crisis since the beginning of the crisis created after the presidential election in November between the outgoing Head of State Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara, recognized President of the international community.

Once Congress tops playing around with budget issues, they should make the same commitment.

–An interesting interview with an African expert from the Institute for International and Strategic Relations:

euronews: Can Alassane Ouattara legitimately be a reconciliation president, considering that his troops are already accused of mass killings during their advance on Abidjan?

Hugon: That’s certain, but to earn that stature it’s imperative that there be an effort of remembrance, the equivalent of a truth and reconciliation commission, and that crimes that may have been committed by one side or another be spoken of.

euronews: Paris is involved in three wars, in Afghanistan, Libya and Ivory Coast. Why this commitment at the end of Nicolas Sarkozy’s term as president? For electoral reasons?

Hugon: It is true that a warrior stance, military commander in chief can have a positive effect on public opinion. I don’t believe that is the main motivation. I believe that Nicolas Sarkozy wanted to partly disengage from Africa, to normalise France-Africa relations — France-Afrique some people have called it — and finds himself facing the classical dilemma: must there be indifference or interference? History will decide whether he was right or wrong.

Jeune Afrique reports 92 Angolan soldiers are assigned to protect Gbagbo’s residence. Stunning news that France 24 seconds. Stunning news.

3:00 EDT: I’m not sure this has been widely reported yet, but in yesterday’s State Department briefing, it was announced that the US Ambassador to Cote D’Ivoire, Phillip Carter, has been in touch with both Ouattara and Gbagbo, even now.

The State Department has posted the full remarks of Asst. Sec. Carson, mentioned earlier:

3:05 EDT: Stunning photos of the conflict in Cote D’Ivoire over the past month. The pciture of the women protesting soldiers stands out to me.

3:15 EDT: France24 reports that Gbagbo’s soldiers returned fire, injuring one Ouattara soldier today.After a break, Ouattara foreces anticipate launching another offensive on the stronghold.

4:15 EDT: AFP reports that the Japanese embassy was attacked by mercenaries. As if things weren’t bad enough.

–American diplomats are also requesting to leave Abidjan.

–The attack on the Japanese embassy was worse than that initial report let on:

The residence of the Ambassador of Japan to Abidjan was attacked Wednesday by “mercenaries”, who then fired rockets and cannon fire from the building, said the diplomat told AFP, indicating that four members of its local staff had “disappeared “. “There are four people, security officials and the gardener, who disappeared. There are a lot of blood in the house, cartridges everywhere. I do not know if the four are alive, ” said Yoshifumi Okamura. “They were probably mercenaries, they entered my home in the morning by pulling (with rocket launchers) RPG. With a dozen people we’ve locked in my room, whose door is reinforced, ” said he said. His residence is located in the Cocody district (north), in a wide perimeter around that of outgoing President Laurent Gbagbo, defended by his last against fighters loyal to Alassane Ouattara, head of state recognized by the international community. “From 9:00 to 2:00 p.m. (GMT), they fired machine guns, guns, RPGs from my residence. I do not know where they’re fired because we were locked up. It’s terrible, ” the diplomat continued. “They looted, stole everything of value in the house. Around 14:00, they are gone, ” said Yoshifumi. But “they are in front of me. I’m afraid they will come back, ” he said. (AFP)

My god.

–There’s now a report of a sniper on top of that residence.

4:30 EDT: The French language site Jeune Afrique lists Gbagbo’s remaining allies.

6:30 EDT: There is speculation that the presence of heavy weapons outside of Gbagbo’s residence may lead to the UN intervening again. But the bigger question, as posed by Senam Beheton, is who exactly is in charge of Abidjan and the country now? Can anyone guarantee security? As long as ambassador residences are attacked, it’s unclear if anyone is in charge.

Every other liveblog is closed. So I’ll follow suit, but be monitoring anything. If anything looks breaking, I’ll throw up a new thread. Thanks for following today.

Advertisements

Cote D’Ivoire / Ivory Coast Running Thread (4/5)

with 2 comments

So apparently I chose a bad day having to deal with the dog for two hours in the morning. Let’s catch up. When I left it last night, the UN/France had hit Gbagbo’s positions in Abidjan with rockets and there were unconfirmed reports that Ouattara’s forces (namely the FRCI) were closing in.

10:45 EDT: A few hours ago, Gen. Mangou gave up (again – he had previously taken asylum in the South African embassy). Also, reports are that the closest advisor to Gbagbo, the foreign minister, gave up, leaving the bunker. All reports now are that Gbagbo is negotiating his departure. But with this kind of leverage over Gbagbo, I, for one, would insist that any such terms include the Hague. Via Penelope Chester, it seems a lawyer for Gbagbo is also claiming that the foreign minister for Gbagbo is being held against his will by the French.

–As for Abidjan itself, it’s effectively under siege. Doctors without Borders said they cannot move around the city.

–Aside from Gbagbo’s residences, UN/French helicopters also attacked military camps north of the city:

UN helicopters attacked a military camp (Agban) in the north of the city, while four french helicopters from Operation Licorne took aim at another military camp in the north-eastern part of the city (Akouedo). Gbagbo’s residence, as well as the presidential palace, were also targeted by international attacks.

As Chester says, the sudden use of force from the air by UN helicopters caught everyone off guard.

10:50 EDT: Gbagbo’s Prime Minister Francois Fillon is negotiating the terms of his surrender:

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said two Ivory Coast generals were involved in negotiating the surrender of Gbagbo, who had clung to power since refusing to concede he lost last November’s presidential election to Alassane Ouattara.

“As we speak we are speaking to two generals to negotiate President Gbagbo’s surrender,” Fillon told members of parliament in Paris.

[. . .]

“It looks like Gbagbo is trying to negotiate his way out. What he can offer is another matter. He is in the process of being militarily defeated so his negotiating position is much weaker than a couple of weeks ago,” said Hannah Koep, Ivory Coast analyst at London-based consultancy Control Risks

[. . .]

In the north of Abidjan, bullet-riddled bodies lay by the side of the main motorway near the largely pro-Gbagbo neighbourhood of Yopougon, evidence of recent fighting between Ouattara and Gbagbo forces, a Reuters witness said.

An armoured personnel carrier was pushed across the roadway, still in flames, and residents who had emerged from their houses to find water said they had heard machinegun and heavy weapons fire through the night.

The number of dead is going to skyrocket as Doctors without Borders and other aide groups can get around. It’s little consolation that Gbagbo has less to negotiate with – the only reason that’s true is that hundreds more had to die for his vanity.

11:00 EDT: OK, the number of live blogs in English has absolutely skyrocketed now that the crisis is effectively at a lull. (Not over – it’ll be years before the crisis is over). Just yesterday I was the only one!

–On a much more serious note, the Guardian’s liveblog has this harrowing tale of a woman fleeing Cote D’Ivoire to Liberia (direct link):

Félicité arrived in Liberia completely naked, carrying three young children under six. She’d walked nearly 150 miles for two weeks through the forest to escape the fighting in Ivory Coast. On the way, she was attacked by bandits. They took everything – even her clothes.

She fled the violence in Abidjan on a truck. From the western town of Daloa, she and her sister set off through the forest on foot, taking their three children with them. Her sister didn’t make it to Liberia. She was too weak. She’s buried in an unmarked grave, somewhere in the bush.

Now Félicité, in her early thirties, has her sister’s five-year-old daughter to care for, as well as her one-year-old son and three-year-old daughter. She has no idea where their fathers are. In the past month, she has seen several friends and relatives killed in front of
her. Every night in Abobo in Abidjan, she faced militiamen who came to kill and loot houses.

While we focus on Ouattara versus Gbagbo, it’s worth noting that a state of total anarchy exists in many parts of the country.

–Russia is questioning whether the UN and French intervention in Cote D’Ivoire was legal.

“We are studying the legal side of the situation, because the peacekeepers had a mandate which obliges them to be neutral and impartial,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a news conference with his Gabonese counterpart Paul Toungui.

Lavrov said Russia had requested an urgent briefing at the U.N. Security Council on the issue.

“So far we have not heard very clear answers to our questions,” he said.

[. . .]

France, which has repeatedly called on Gbagbo to step down, said on Tuesday that it was not at war in Ivory Coast, its former colony. A French government spokesman said “we are applying the democratic will of the people”.

The French Foreign Ministry said French forces intervened only in support of a U.N. resolution.

Russia, sensitive about foreign involvement in election disputes because of criticism of its own democracy record, earlier used the threat of a U.N. Security Council veto to quash a plan for potential military intervention in Ivory Coast by the West African regional group ECOWAS, according to diplomats.

I’m going to have more on this topic this afternoon.

11:15 EDT: Now that this actual conflict appears over, the time for investigations is going to start. And it’s going to start with how much control Ouattara has over the ‘New Forces” that were accused of violence in the west.

How far he controls and influences the rebels is unclear, experts say.

There is no direct link between Ouattara or his RDR party and the New Forces rebels, who were profiled last month by David Smith.

But Ouattara and his supporters have a “coincidence of interests” with the rebels, as one analyst said. Following his apparent election victory over Gbagbo, Ouattara formed a pact with the New Forces. He named one of the founders of the rebel group, Guillaume Soro, as his prime minister.

The Guardian additionally quotes Paul Kelly, who notes that when Ouattara called the forces Republican last week he took a certain amount of responsibility.

11:20 EDT: President Obama issued a statement supporting the role of peacekeepers in Cote D’Ivoire:

I remain deeply concerned by the security situation in Cote d’Ivoire. I strongly support the role that United Nations peacekeepers are playing as they enforce their mandate to protect civilians, and I welcome the efforts of French forces who are supporting that mission. Tragically, the violence that we are seeing could have been averted had Laurent Gbagbo respected the results of last year’s presidential election. To end this violence and prevent more bloodshed, former President Gbagbo must stand down immediately, and direct those who are fighting on his behalf to lay down their arms. Every day that the fighting persists will bring more suffering, and further delay the future of peace and prosperity that the people of Cote D’Ivoire deserve.

The people of Cote D’Ivoire have suffered too much throughout this period of unrest. The United States joins with the international community in our deep concern about reports of massacres in the western region of the country, and the dangers faced by innocent civilians – particularly the most vulnerable. All parties must show restraint and respect the rights of the Ivorian people, and I welcome President Ouattara’s pledge to ensure accountability for those who have carried out attacks against civilians. Meanwhile, the United States will continue to support a future in which Laurent Gbagbo stands down, and President Outarra and the government of Cote D’Ivoire can move beyond this current crisis and serve all of the Ivorian people.

This was aimed at nipping the legal talk in the bud, it seems. But with Russia and enough Gbagbo supporters or anti-colonialists still around, I think the legal discussion is far from over, though I don’t think it can ever go anywhere.

11:25 EDT: This describes the key parts of the UN resolution regarding Cote D’Ivoire:

Nigerian Ambassador Joy Ogwu told journalists, “In my view, the die is cast by this resolution.”

The resolution reaffirmed that the 12,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force in Ivory Coast, known as UNOCI, is responsible for protecting civilians, but was cautious on how aggressive it should be.

It called on UNOCI “to use all necessary means to carry out its mandate to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence, within its capabilities and its areas of deployment, including to prevent the use of heavy weapons used against the civilian population.”

But Ogwu noted that the final text had toned down a sentence in an early draft that instructed UNOCI to seize heavy weapons. “That suggests that UNOCI should not go beyond its mandate — to protect civilians and defend itself,” she said.

Everyone’s talking about protecting civilians, but UNOCI was also allowed to defend itself – and 8 UN members had been shot by Gbagbo thugs.

11:30 EDT: EU Sanctions could be lifted relatively quickly:

“The EU stands ready to repidly remove sanctions once effective power is transferred to President Ouattara,” said a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

An EU diplomat said, however, that the move would not be instantaneous, saying the transfer of power could take time.

“Even if Ouattara takes full control of the country, there will be no move on cocoa or coffee until there is full clarity there are no more Gbagbo people involved in these activities,” the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

They’re going to need that to get their economy going again.

11:35 EDT: Voice of America reports that west African bloc ECOWAS is guaranteeing Gbagbo “safe and dignified” passage out of Cote D’Ivoire.

–NGOs like Oxfam are having difficulty even reaching refugees:

[Oxfam Humanitarian Program Manager Tariq] Riebl said, “Right now, we’re working with UNHCR as well as NGO partners in trying to set up transit centers that would serve as shelter places for them. These would be anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 persons per site. But in the meantime, while these are being prepared, they have to remain in host communities, usually quite close to the border.”

Poor roads make it difficult to reach these families. “And once it starts raining they get almost inaccessible,” he says, “So the priority for us is to try and set up these sites and that has only started this week. So until then we have a lot of problems reaching people.”

The aim is to start moving people to the transit centers by the end of the week.

It’s been difficult getting an accurate number of Ivoirian refugees in Grand Gedeh County.

“This is because there are some refugees that cross back and forth. Others have been registered at least twice. However, we think, right now, we’re talking a number of about 30,000 people across the whole county of Grand Gedeh,” Riebl said.

11:40 EDT: Phil Clark from Soas describes what is next for Ouattara in Cote D’Ivoire: The forces are not his forces, the rest of the population does not find him a legitimate president, and his history with the IMF and UN action here may make him look like a tool of the west. Aside from that…

http://boos.audioboo.fm/swf/fullsize_player.swf

11:45 EDT: France is requiring Gbagbo to sign a document waiving claims to power. I don’t understand the rationale here, it pretty clearly is a) under duress and b) superfluous since everyone who would be convinced by the document already thinks Ouattara won. Are they going to try to get Gbagbo supporters to back down with this, perhaps? Seems like a long shot. I guess there’s no harm in trying, though.

11:55 EDT: French FM Alain Juppe wants UNOCI to hold on to Gbagbo and his family until they decide what to do with him (read: try them inside or outside of the country).

12:00 EDT: Journalist Jean-Marc Tanguy reports on what the UN/French helicopters struck last night:

We knew at the same time that members of the Defence Committee and Foreign Affairs: 27 vehicles were destroyed last night by the five helicopters being flown by Unicorn. In detail, it gives three BM-21, four armored vehicles, 20 pickups, which must be added four anti-aircraft guns. The tower of the Ivorian Radio and Television was also struck. It is never too late.

France24 is also reporting that; also, The French Defense Minister said nothing else was targeted.

12:15 EDT: New reports of gunfire from Abidjan are emerging. Nothing is confirmed yet.

12:20 EDT: The heart of the problem is that while Gbagbo and his generals seem more or less ready to give in, it’s not clear whether his soldiers or militias supporting him (such as the Young Patriots) are willing to do the same:

It remained unclear whether all armed groups loyal to Gbagbo, including pro-Gbagbo militias, would put down their arms. It also was not clear that rank-and-file soldiers will follow their commanders’ orders and put down their weapons.

Making matters worse, Gbagbo and his family seem ready to die:

Zakaria Fellah, a foreign policy adviser to Gbagbo, said that the Ivorian strongman “is not negotiating anything. This is a fight to the end for him, his wife and what you guys call his hard line-supporters.”

Fellah said he spoke Tuesday morning to Gbagbo’s wife, Simone, who is sheltered with her husband in a bunker at the family residence, where there is no electricity or access to the outside world. “They are living in a bunker. She said, and I’m quoting, ‘It would be a beautiful end.’ I don’t know what it means but I think they are ready to die.”

12:25 EDT: Now there are reports that Gbagbo is negotiating with the African Union through the Mauritanian president on how to leave office.

Ivory Coast’s Laurent Gbagbo has been discussing a possible exit from power with Mauritania’s president, the Commissioner of the African Union’s Peace and Security Council (PSC) said on Tuesday.  Gbagbo, who has refused to step aside since an election last November, is under fierce attack in Adidjan from the forces of Alassane Ouattara, widely recognised internationally as the winner.

Asked whether Gbagbo would be willing to step aside, Ramtane Lamamra said: “That’s the understanding of the President of Mauritania who has been personally in touch with him.”  “What you said corresponds to the state of mind that we can detect now in the discussions between the President of Mauritania and Mr Gbagbo,” Lamamra told reporters after briefing the PSC on Ivory Coast.  Mauritania is the current chair of the PSC.

Obviously, this situation is fluid.

12:30 EDT: More information on what caused the UN to go on the offfensive:

U.N. officials have described Gbagbo as anything but heroic, saying his forces have blindly fired mortar rounds into Abidjan neighborhoods and at U.N. personnel. Eleven U.N. peacekeepers have been injured over the past 72 hours, including four U.N. “blue helmets” who were wounded when Gbagbo’s forces fired a rocket-propelled grenade into a U.N. armored personnel vehicle. On Sunday, the United Nations ordered the temporary relocation of about 200 civilian staff members to the northern town of Dueke.

Colum Lynch adds that UN forces had gone on offensive operations previously in Haiti, Congo, and Sierra Leone.

12:35 EDT: The BBC received this press release from the UN regarding the surrender of Gbagbo’s generals:

[T]his morning, UNOCI received three telephone calls from Ivorian personalities to say that an order to stop fighting was being given to the elements of the Defence and Security Forces of Côte d’Ivoire (FDSCI), including the Special Forces. The elements were also ordered to hand in their weapons to UNOCI forces and to ask for their protection. The three personalities are General Philippe Mangou, Chief of Staff of the Defence and Security Forces, General Thiape Kassarate Edouard, Commander of the National Gendarmerie and General Bruno Dogbo Blé, Commander of the Republican Guard. UNOCI has given orders to its troops to receive arms wherever they are handed in and to offer protection to disarmed FDSCI elements, including the Special Forces.”

–The BBC also reports that there are 2,000 people including foreign nationals in the French refugee Port Bouet camp south of Abidjan. Someone there is reporting that they still hear gunfire.

–Andrew Harding of the BBC is reporting that around Abidjan there are corpses on the streets, and some people surrendering. He is also on Twitter.

12:40 EDT: James Inhofe will not let Gbagbo go down without giving endless speeches defending him on the Senate floor. Disgusting. Gbagbo’s supporters at this point are still him, Pat Robertson, Glenn Beck (sort of), Jean-Marie Le Pen, and the International Committee of the Fourth International. That’s it.

12:45 EDT: More on the situation that Ouattara finds himself in:

Sanctions imposed after Gbagbo refused to yield to the U.N.-certified winner barred him from deposits at the regional central bank, pushed his government into default on its debt and left cocoa rotting in warehouses. Commercial activity all but ceased and the economy is on the brink of collapse.

[. . .]

“In the short term, I think it will be very messy,” said Hannah Koep, Ivory Coast analyst for consultancy Control Risks.

“Even if Gbagbo goes, his supporters are still very heavily armed and they will be very frustrated. The security situation in Abidjan is likely to be very unpredictable for some time to come. Beyond that, the challenges are monumental.”

[. . .]

Ivory Coast defaulted on interest payments on a $2.3 billion bond XS0496488395=R earlier this year. The bond rose to its highest level since December on Tuesday on investor hopes that a Ouattara victory could pave the way for repayment.

“That’s a bit optimistic,” said Graham Stock, chief strategist at Insparo Asset Management. “The cost of the conflict is going to undermine the fiscal position for the new government. It’s not obvious that debt servicing is going to be a priority.”

Ouattara’s first objective will be securing the main city using his relatively new forces, analysts say — a task that requires him to keep divisions among his fighters to a minimum.

[. . .]

Abidjan — both the commercial and political centre — has become a divided city with Gbagbo’s forces effectively kept out of Ouattara areas by sniping and occasional hit-and-run attacks. In the short term, the danger is that that situation is simply reversed, rendering reconstruction almost impossible.

[. . .]

“In terms of how much international support Ouattara enjoys, a lot will depend on what the end game itself actually looks like and what happens with the investigation into the massacre,” said Control Risks’ Koep.

“Ouattara has always been careful to try to keep his distance from the northern rebels but if his new Republican Forces are implicated in atrocities it will make things much more difficult.”

In the short term, most investors not already exposed to Ivory Coast are seen holding back to see how events develop. But those already based in the country — including mining and telecom firms — may return quicker, anxious to build bridges with Ouattara and those around him.

“It’s going to be a very uncertain situation for quite some time,” said Mandy Kirby, regional analyst at political risk consultancy Maplecroft. “In the next three months or so, I think there will need to be a real focus on building the foundations of the rule of law…. But Ivory Coast is a very attractive investment destination because of its natural resources and it will still be appealing for the right kind of investor.

Things are going to get worse before they get better.

12:50 EDT: Apparently Ban Ki-Moon is the one who made Gbagbo sign a document renouncing power? I don’t get the motivation, they didn’t recognize his legitimacy yesterday, what does a document like this do?

12:55 EDT: Not only have the UNHCR been trapped in their office for 5 days, but 300 refugees are trapped in their car park.

CNN is reporting terms of Gbagbo’s surrender are being finalized and combat is over. Again, it’s not clear what exactly that means – have all militias given up? Gbagbo’s remaining troops? Is Gbagbo going to exile or being arrested? Hard to tell.

–British Foreign Officer Minister for Africa Henry Bellingham on what Ouattara has to do:

“What President Ouattara has said is he’s going to have a government of national unity – he’ll draw in some of Gbagbo’s politicians into his new government. And we’re going to have to look at a number of strands economic, security, national reconciliation. And what we’re calling for, on the part of President Ouattara and his troops, is restraint. If there’s restraint, then it’s going to be much easier to build reconciliation. Up to a million people have fled their homes, over 100,000 have fled across into Liberia so we’re looking at a real humanitarian need for food, for water, for shelter.

Calling this a precarious situation drastically is understating it.

1:00 EDT: Oxfam is launching a new appeal for aid to Cote D’Ivoire. Please do what you can.

1:05 EDT: When I keep reading that Gbagbo is negotiating his exit, I wonder what he’s bargaining with. The terms have to be harsh, because we can’t provide an incentiv to dictators to fight to the last man / human shield. The terms have to be worse now than they would have been 3 days ago. I would be insistent on some sort of investigation and trial.

–At the same time, none of the statements today of French FM Juppe have even mentioned trial, just this signed piece of paper that wouldn’t likely be admissible anywhere. Sigh. What’s the point again?

1:15 EDT: The Chief Prosecutor of the ICC is gathering information.

This is a very positive step. Any impunity will in the long run be a giant roadblock towards rebuilding the country.

1:20 EDT: France24 is looking to confirm reports that French and UN tanks are advancing near Abidjan.

1:25 EDT: Another account of refugees in Liberia from the director of Plan International, via the BBC:

All along the Liberia border in Nimba County, I met refugee children who couldn’t smile and couldn’t play. They were too shocked by all the violence they had seen. Most came from villages in the area near Duekoue in Ivory Coast, the town where hundreds of people are said to have been killed. Some told me that armed men came to their villages and attacked them. They saw neighbours killed by gunfire, just metres away from them. Those hiding in the bush were hunted down and killed. Escaping to Liberia was a long and horrific journey for many. They had to run from gunfire, they saw dead bodies along the route and they were forced to wade through rivers. Children also had to experience this. Some arrived in Liberia, having not eaten anything for days. Others survived only on wild bananas.

1:30 EDT: Reports of looting are still rolling in; as a reminder, most of the southern part of the country is probably under little, if any control.

–A must-read article about the French role in Africa  (make sure you have Google Translate):

Relations have gradually warmed after the arrival of Nicolas Sarkozy to power, that focused on elections in late 2010 to initiate normalization.

For the first time since 2004, the French army is in the forefront: the Licorne force went into action on Monday night along with the UN to attack the last bastions of power by Laurent Gbagbo and to destroy heavy weapons “used against the civilian population. ”  For many analysts, this military involvement raises the question of the line French policy in Africa, where President Nicolas Sarkozy advocated a “relationship relaxed”, ensuring that Paris would no longer be the policeman of the continent.  “The message is totally garbled. Until recently, Nicolas Sarkozy said that the former colonial power was the least well placed to intervene in its former backyard,” said Antoine Glaser, author of “Sarko in Africa.”  At the Africa-France summit in Nice in June 2010 and more recently during his greeting to the armed forces on January 4, French President assured that “the soldiers of France” had “not intended to interfere in the Affairs of Côte d’Ivoire. ”  Defending this line of no interference, the president to hide behind the African Union or under the umbrella of the UN.  But Antoine Glaser, “so there will be a military presence in an African country, there will be an ambiguity.”

Illustration of this ambiguity for the experts: France closes its permanent base in 2009 in Abidjan, but maintains troops in the country through force Licorne. Now this force is under UN mandate, but remains under French COMMAND.  Richard Banegas, professor of political science at the University of Paris I, “the African policy of France, particularly in terms of military interference, is a succession of non-choice, adjustments based on immediate issues, no clear line, without public debate. ”  “After 2004, France was in a retracted position. By participating in these strikes while UNOCI could have done, it will complicate its relationship with other African countries,” he said.  He stressed that the argument of “protection of civilians,” advanced by France and the United Nations to justify their intervention has been widely criticized when it is used only against the Gbagbo camp and failed to prevent massacres attributed to the troops in the western pro-Alassane Ouattara.

Political scientist Michel Galy for its part considers that “the French army is in danger of being legally described as an accomplice in war crimes.”  “But the immediate concern, he says, is the risk of retaliation against the French who live in Abidjan.”

The one thing going for it is the seeming support (or at least lack of a condemnation) from Nigeria or ECOWAS. As long as that’s the case, France’s position won’t be risked too much. As far as war crimes, I’d be surprised if anything they did in the past day rose to that level, especially given the brutality we already know existed.

1:45 EDT: This Le Monde article (in French) demonstrates the two risks to UN action: Ouattara is seen as the West’s puppet, and secondly there is a risk of retaliation on the French in Cote D’Ivoire. Both are serious risks, but the relatively quick end to hostilities probably outweighed it for Ban Ki=Moon, Sarkozy, and Ouattara. Thirty hours ago this looked like it would never end.

2:00 EDT: The Guardian digs down into the motivations of African countries in the crisis:

But individual countries had their own motivations. Rinaldo Depagne, west Africa senior analyst at the International Crisis Group, said Burkina Faso was the country most concerned by Gbagbo’s stance. More than 2 million of its citizens live and work in Ivory Coast. If they all suddenly were forced to return home – anti-foreigner sentiment is high among Gbagbo’s hardline supporters – it would present huge challenges for President Blaise Compaoré, who had previously served as a mediator in Ivory Coast.

“He does not have the resources to feed all those mouths,” said Depagne.

The second country exerting strong influence, he said, was Nigeria, under President Goodluck Jonathan, who is eager to boost his country’s image and reputation on the world stage.

As per protocol, the Africa Union followed the lead of the regional bloc, and suspended Ivory Coast on 9 December, until Gbagbo ceded power. There were dissenters, however, most notably Angola, which sent representatives to observe Gbabgo’s swearing-in. While not openly supportive of Gbagbo, South Africa trod carefully, urging the need for reconciliation – and attracting much criticism in the process.

As an expert is later quoted, hopefully this will head off any similar crisis elsewhere in the continent where elections are scheduled this year.

— Gbagbo has officially surrendered and asked for UN protection.

2:05 EDT: French tanks advanced across bridges south of where Gbagbo is:

Four French tanks and several armoured personnel vehicles crossed bridges formerly held by forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo in Ivory Coast’s main city Abidjan on Tuesday, a Reuters correspondent said.

The bridges link the northern administrative and financial district of the city to the south where the airport and French army base is located.

The tanks and armoured personnel carriers were flying the French flag with a Red Cross vehicle behind them flying a white flag

–Sarkozy advised Ouattara to form a unity government:

French President Nicolas Sarkozy urged Ivory Coast presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara in a telephone call on Tuesday to form a national unity government as soon as possible, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said.

“I can testify…to a conversation between the president of the republic and Mr. Ouattara this morning in which Nicolas Sarkozy asked Alassane Ouattara to quickly take the initiative by calling for reconciliation, pardon and the constitution of a national union.”

Juppe said he believed Ouattara was a democrat and keen to achieve the peaceful reconciliation of the West African country, the world’s largest cocoa producer, which was split by a 2002-2003 civil war.

Ouattara, recognised by the international community as the winner of November’s presidential election, was likely to announce amnesties for members of Gbagbo’s administration and include some of them in his unity government, Juppe said.

The biggest obstacle there may be Ouattara’s Prime Minister Guillaume Soro, who is the former rebel leader and founded many of the resistance forces who may be implicated in mass killings in the west of the country. Soro was also Prime Minister under Gbagbo, but is widely believed to have Presidential ambitions himself. Getting Soro and Gbagbo supporters to buy in to the government is a Herculean task for Ouattara.

2:15 EDT: France 24 quotes French officials on the future of Laurent Gbagbo:

The French Defence Minister, Gerard Longuet, said: “There are very many African countries that are willing to accommodate other African brothers, whatever their mistakes. (…) Anyone who knows us says ‘What can you do for me? “This has been seen everywhere. I welcome this. This means that the system is disintegrating and thatthe closest feel that their future is more about Laurent Gbagbo,” he added.

Asked whether Gbagbo would remain in Côte d’Ivoire, the Foreign Minister, AlainJuppe, has responded to the press: “It is the Ivorian authorities to decide. We askedUNOCI ensure their physical safety and that of his family. “

I would feel better if he had to face trial.

2:20 EDT: Sarkozy’s office does not confirm the surrender of Gbagbo, says negotiations are still ongoing.

2:30 EDT: Apparently using the pony express to deliver statements, the African Union has just made a statement condemning human rights violations. What took so long?

–Reuters is now also reporting that Gbagbo has asked for UN protection in exchange for surrendering, but he has not yet surrendered.

2:35 EDT: Holy cow:

French rolling news channel La Chaine Info says it has held an exclusive interview with Mr Gbagbo in his presidential bunker – which, judging by recent photographs, is pretty lavish as far as bunkers go. Throughout the interview, Mr Gbagbo maintained that he was the legitimately-elected president of Ivory Coast, saying that he would ultimately like to talk to Alassane Ouattara as one equal to another.

How can I add to that?

2:40 EDT: The Guardian on the role of the UN in Africa:

Last year there were claims that peacekeepers ignored appeals for protection just days before more than 240 villagers were raped by rebels. There have been similar charges in the past, blamed on lack of equipment, manpower and intelligence capacity. UN peacekeepers in Darfur have been accused of failing to stop violence that resulted in civilian deaths.

Major General Patrick Cammaert, a Dutch marine and UN peacekeeping veteran, told the New York Times in 2009: “They can’t start a war against a host government like a well-organised Sudanese campaign. That goes beyond protecting civilians; it is on a magnitude that a UN mission cannot deal with.”

The reaction to this in future UN Security Resolutions should be interesting.

2:45 EDT: The Guardian also picked up on Luis Moreno-Ocampo’s statements that are in the video above. There will likely be an investigation.

3:00 EDT: Gbagbo apparently has rejected a request to recognizes Ouattaro’s victory.

–Also, apparently there is still sporadic firing in Abidjan by young people. I wonder if they’re the Young Patriots, and if so, are they going to keep fighting.

3:15 EDT: The Associated Press reports on the phone interview Gbagbo conducted:

Ivory Coast’s strongman leader Laurent Gbagbo holed up in a bunker inside the presidential residence Tuesday, defiantly maintaining he won the election four months ago even as troops backing the internationally recognized winner encircled the home.

[. . .]

. . . Gbagbo showed no intention of leaving, declaring in his interview with French television, that Ouattara “did not win the elections” even though he was declared the victor by the U.N., African Union, United States, former colonial power France and other world leaders.

“I won the election and I am not negotiating my departure,” Gbagbo said by telephone. The French channel said the interview was conducted by phone from his residence at 1730 GMT, and lasted about 20 minutes.

This comes amidst widespread reports that he is, in fact, negotiating his departure.

4:00 EDT: The BBC reports on the UN decision to use airstrikes against Gbagbo:

“UN Peacekeeping Chief Alain Le Roy acknowledges that launching UN air strikes on the arsenal of Ivory Coast’s entrenched ruler Laurent Gbagbo was an ‘extraordinary move’,” she says. “But he insists it was based on a unanimously adopted Security Council resolution authorising all necessary means to protect civilians from Mr Gbagbo’s heavy weapons. The Security Council was united in demands that Mr Gbagbo cede power after losing recent presidential elections to Alassane Ouattara. And there was a sense that something should be done to limit the damage from the months-long standoff.”

–The official process of getting the Cote D’Ivoire situation referred to International Criminal Court is under way:

The International Criminal Court prosecutor said on Tuesday he is in talks with West African states about referring alleged atrocities in the Ivory Coast to the court to accelerate an investigation into the violence.

[. . .]

ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said his office was concerned about reports of atrocities, particularly in the west of the country, and was looking into the violence, but declined to say who might be held accountable for the killings.  “We are discussing with some (ICC) state parties, particularly within the region, if they wish to refer the case. That would help to expedite the activities of the court,” Moreno-Ocampo told journalists at his offices in The Hague.  Under the 1998 Rome Statute that set up the court, any state that is a member of the ICC can refer a case to the court, requesting the prosecutor to investigate alleged crimes.

While Ivory Coast is an ICC member state, giving the court jurisdiction over crimes committed there, Moreno-Ocampo also said a referral from an ICC member state over the current crisis would prove “very useful” in accelerating a formal probe.  Moreno-Ocampo said his office was discussing a referral with members of the West African regional bloc ECOWAS and downplayed talk that ICC member state France, which has deployed its miltary alongside a U.N. peacekeeping force in the country, would refer the case.  “What we are doing now is collecting information in order to open an investigation there. We are concerned about the recent information of massive atrocities in the west of Ivory Coast and we are trying to define exactly what happened there,” he said.

It’s not worth delving down into this beyond what’s written. The important thing is that the ICC is invested in the situation and is going to pursue it, which will put severe pressure on Ouattara to launch an independent investigation of his own, or alternately, for other countries to pressure Ouattara to allow the ICC to investigate.

This is one of the times I wish the United States had more credibility with the ICC instead of rejecting it outright.

4:10 EDT: The UN is reporting that the hundreds killed in western Cote D’Ivoire were killed in two separate major incidents while others may have been killed by local militia. Once again, let’s not rush to lay blame – we need to blame people but until there’s a full investigation we don’t know who that is. When the investigation comes back, then throw down the hammer.

4:15 EDT: The France24 Washington correspondent says Gbagbo wants discussion, not negotiations. He clearly has no idea what sort of situation he is in.

The BBC says the discontent within the UN may be normal:

There are now rumblings of discontent about foreign military intervention from senior officials in Russia and parts of Africa, our correspondent adds. ‘”I don’t remember giving any mandate to anyone for an aerial bombardment in Cote D’Ivoire,’ complained South Africa’s foreign minister,” she says. But such grumblings are par-for-the-course. “In fact, UN resolutions only ever pass because of a degree of constructive ambiguity, which can give license to those who want to be more proactive. So some discontent is not unusual, the thing to watch is whether it leads to practical steps, like attempts to brand the UN action as illegal.”

–The BBC is also still reporting sporadic fighting around Abidjan.

–The United Nations has just issued their own statement regarding the situation in Cote D’Ivoire:

The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Côte d’Ivoire reported today that it has received telephone calls from the heads of forces loyal to former leader Laurent Gbagbo stating that their soldiers have been instructed to stop fighting and hand in their weapons to the UN.

The UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) said the calls came from General Philippe Mangou, the chief-of-staff of the Defence and Security Forces, General Thiape Kassarate Edouard, the commander of the National Gendarmerie and General Bruno Dogbo Blé, the commander of the Republican Guard.

Troops loyal to Mr. Gbagbo, the former president who refused to step down after losing the election in November to opposition leader Alassane Ouattara, have been engaged in fierce fighting with forces loyal to Mr. Ouattara, who have in recent weeks stepped up their offensive to force the ex-leader out of power. Mr. Ouattara is the internationally recognised President of Côte d’Ivoire.

“UNOCI has given orders to its troops to receive arms wherever they are handed in and to offer protection to disarmed FDSCI [Defence and Security Forces of Côte d’Ivoire] elements, including the Special Forces,” the UN mission said in a press release.

Meanwhile, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that the situation in Abidjan, the West African country’s commercial capital and the scene of the some fiercest fighting over the past week, is alarming.

Most of the hospitals are not functioning and ambulances have been fired on when they tried to enter the city, according to OCHA.

Valerie Amos, the UN Under-Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs, who is visiting Côte d’Ivoire, reported that internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the western town of Duékoué, the scene of an alleged massacre of civilians last week, were “fearful and traumatized.”

Ms. Amos, who is also the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator and head of OCHA, stressed the need for physical protection for those affected and the distribution of sufficient humanitarian aid. Access to many civilians in need has, however, been severely restricted or completely cut off since mid-February when the fighting intensified, according to OCHA.

The Emergency Relief Coordinator was accompanied on the visit to Duékoué yesterday by the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Simonovic, who went to the town to look into the mass killings that allegedly took place last Wednesday.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) voiced alarm over the impact of the violence in Côte d’Ivoire on children.

“We are especially troubled by reports that children are among the victims of a mass killing there,” said Anthony Lake, the UNICEF Executive Director. “And children continue to be recruited by armed forces on all sides of the conflict – a grave violation of their rights which jeopardizes not only their future but also the chances for achieving sustainable peace in Cote d’Ivoire.”

“We fear outbreaks of disease if we and other agencies cannot reach the thousands of internally displaced families,” added Mr. Lake.

4:20 EDT: Cocoa futures are down based on investor confidence that the country is going to stabilize. So that’s something positive (even if I think systemic problems are bigger than investors do).

4:40 EDT: According to the French Ambassador to Cote D’Ivoire, Gbagbo has not respected a single condition of the agreement this morning. We’ve reached the phase where Gbagbo is going to talk for a while and nothing substantial is going to happen.

5:00 EDT: According to the UN High Commission for Refugees, “more than 125,000 Ivorians have fled to Liberia, while 7,000 have crossed into Ghana, 1,700 into Togo, and about 1,000 into Guinea.”

–The most important person in Cote D’Ivoire now might be Ouattaro’s Prime Minister Guillaume Soro. Here’s a brief profile.

5:10 EDT: The sticking point may be whether Gbagbo is tried. The BBC:

The Ouattara camp has been pressing for him to face trial at the ICC for crimes against humanity during his time in charge, but any negotiated settlement is likely to see Mr Gbagbo given safe passage from Ivory Coast, says the BBC’s John James in Abidjan.

5:20 EDT: France24 on the Cote D’Ivoire Economy:

However, Côte d’Ivoire and does not export as cocoa, far away. Chocolate and other products derived from the beans were not alone, the country’s leading economic power of the European Economic and Monetary West African ( UMEAO ) and 16th African economy by the OECD .

If Côte d’Ivoire is so marked with the seal of cocoa, is that it focuses on its own 40% of world production. The sector was also in 2009, one third of its exports . Yet until 2008 the main source of export revenue was oil, not cocoa. The trend was reversed primarily because of the escalating price of cocoa. But the fight for first place between these two resources are tight. . .

If the rest of the commodities exported seems negligible, it still represents $ 3.5 billion for the Ivorian economy on $ 10.3 billion exports achieved in 2009. Leading this pack of exports forgotten rubber.Côte d’Ivoire is the main reservoir of African rubber with 205,000 tonnes produced in 2009. Before the outbreak of post-election crisis in Ivory Coast, the government had implemented a program to triple its production in fifteen years.

With Abidjan, Hope and San Pedro, Cote d’Ivoire is a major power port of the SSA. The country has capitalized on this geographical advantage to develop the activities of shipbuilding: the boats are the fourth export of Côte d’Ivoire. The timber industry, the main resource of the country in the 1980s, suffered the development of planting cocoa and coffee and, more recently, oil palm.

If I hear someone else say that Cote D’Ivoire only produces cocoa, I’m gonna go ballistic. Or perhaps just calmly reference this. One or the other.

–The humanitarian situation in the country is an absolute disaster:

Even admission of impotence – medical this time – from Doctors Without Borders (MSF). For six days, teams of NGOs, posted in Abobo, a district north of Abidjan, are unable to get potential patients – no ambulance can circulate. “The injured are out of reach,” said Lawrence Sury, Deputy Head of Emergency Operations at MSF, who reported to France24.com what his team unreachable since Monday. “The Abidjan phoning our teams to come and look for injured patients, but it’s impossible,” he says. “The team still treats 30 to 40 casualties per day, but these are mainly people in the vicinity or brought in carts by residents.”

For civilians, holed up at home and frightened by continued firing, the situation became unbearable.Jean-Paul, a resident of the neighborhood of Abobo, told the daily hell . “We survive,” he says. “All the shops are closed, there are more markets, I can not buy food. I did not reserve a few days and I have nothing to eat.” For security reasons, he separated from his wife and daughter, have fled to Ghana. As for himself, he decided to stay in Abidjan to “protect his house against looters . ”

West hit by mass exodus

Like John Paul, “many Ivorians fleeing the fighting and send their families in Liberia and Ghana,” said Francois Danel. The latter is also concerned about the movements (mass) population that also affect Western countries – especially Duékoué strategic city and gateway to the main cocoa-producing area. Today the town is deserted by its inhabitants. Some 20,000 of them took refuge in the precincts of the Catholic Mission after the massacre of 800 people last March 29 . An exodus “among many others,” blows the Director of ACF. “Between Man and Duékoué, whole villages were emptied of their population,” he laments. Since the conflict began, more than a million civilians have been displaced by fighting between forces loyal to both candidates in the presidential election of November 2010, reports the UN agency for refugees (UNHCR).

“These outflows are always synonymous with extreme insecurity,” worries the director of ACF.Because if they do not leave the country, these people – consisting mainly of women and children – crowded into refugee camps where the seats are missing. Some were accommodated in shelters. “At Duekoue, living conditions are extremely difficult and by far the most disturbing, access to water is increasingly problematic and food becomes scarce,” said Francois Danel after spending a few days.

Moreover, MSF is concerned about the number of newly arriving wounded to medical facilities in the region. “Between March 28 and April 3, 146 wounded arrived at Bangolo and Duékoué 285” lists Lawrence Sury. And continuing: “New wounded continue to arrive, despite the end of the offensive zone. This indicates that the violence continues. If this is indeed the case, the humanitarian disaster will quickly turn into disaster.”

Horrifying.

6:10 EDT: The spokesman for Alassane Ouattara, Sogoni Bamba, said in an interview that Gbagbo must be put on trial and if necessary they will “hunt him down like the Nazis”:

What can you say about the current situation in Abidjan?

Laurent Gbagbo’s troops have surrendered and now he negotiates the terms of his departure with foreign embassies. But I think it is already “gone”, there can never be president again Ivorian. It’s a horrible page of our history that has been turned.

What will become of Laurent Gbagbo?

Let him go where he wants, he can go, but it will be hunted down like the Nazis. He must answer for his actions. There were too many things, the Ivorians have suffered too much, he should comply with democratic rules.

Alassane Ouattara, does he participate in negotiations for the departure of Laurent Gbagbo?

Yes, he discusses his surrender. But he will quickly get to work with everyone forming a national unity government. Côte d’Ivoire also belongs to supporters of Laurent Gbagbo, are our brothers.We must go quickly to reconciliation and make the effort to forgive them is the challenge to Alassane Ouattara and all Ivorians. In contrast, those who have hurt answer for their actions.

What will be the first actions when Alassane Ouattara is in power?
It will handle the security problem and all those who gave Gbagbo weapons. We must secure Abidjan, the irreducible back to reason by making them lay down their arms. Then it will open the banks, that life returns to normal, we get back to work quickly.

What do you think of the French military intervention in Côte d’Ivoire?
Since it is a legitimate force acted in the framework of resolution 1975 of the UNto protect civilians and French nationals. We have no complex compared to the intervention, it is neither a coup or a coup as the colonial camp said Gbagbo. For now, must remain UNOCI in Côte d’Ivoire to help us secure.

7:20 EDT: Beth Dickinson about the many lessons and failures of this crisis:

But let’s name the things that have gone wrong: Negotiations failed; economic sanctions failed; the U.N. peacekeeping mission was thwarted, though it later regained initaitive. A military siege has not yet succeeded and regardless comes at a high cost. The French have gotten involved militarily, which was surely the last thing they wanted to do in a former colony where resentment toward their influence runs incredibly high. The humanitarian situation is as precarious as it has been in the last decade.

Now is no time to celebrate. If and when this political stand-off ends, the Ivory Coast is going to be broken.

It’s incredible to reflect on what that means: that one man, Laurent Gbagbo, could push a country to the brink of  self destruction, costing thousands of lives, billions of lost economic dollars, and an uncountable toll of human suffering. The world didn’t fail to end this crisis for want of trying; it failed because there were no good answers. It’s particularly striking given how many things were working in favor of this being resolved. The country already had a 11,000-strong peacekeeping mission. There was from the beginning been international consensus about the outcome of the elections.

There are still pro-Gbagbo militias running around with guns in Abidjan:

However a Western diplomat said sporadic gunfire could still be heard in the well-to-do Abidjan suburb of Cocody.

“I spent quite a lot of the day in the cellar again because of fighting at the bottom of the street,” the diplomat said.

“It is clear the situation is not under control. There are lots of pro-Gbagbo militia running around with guns,” he added.

James North at The Nation looks at the role American agribusiness plays:

Cargill and ADM are gigantic enterprises; millions of Ivorians know them, but probably not one American in 500 would recognize their names. Large companies like Microsoft and Apple appear regularly in the Western press, but the big agribusinesses are arguably more influential worldwide. The Cargill and ADM websites boast about how big and diversified they are. Cargill last year operated in sixty-six countries, with $107.9 billion in revenues and $2.6 billion in profits. Do the agribusinesses really have to wrest every single West African franc they can out of the small growers?

The chronic crisis in the cocoa industry has contributed to the present slide into civil war in two ways. First, and most significant, the persistent poverty and stagnation causes war. Second, the ethnic tensions, which arose in the cocoa industry itself, gave unscrupulous politicians the chance to make a bad situation even worse, for their personal gain.

Côte d’Ivoire over the past decades has done just about everything mainstream Western economists suggested—and it remains trapped in poverty. The country concentrated on growing and exporting products it was “good” at, cocoa and also coffee, instead of trying to industrialize. But the chronically low world prices for these products kept the country poor. With better prices—a little more like what protected and subsidized farmers in the United States and Western Europe earn—my friends and the millions of others in the cocoa-growing regions here could have started to consume more themselves, which in turn would have promoted local industries, p reduced unemployment and gradually raised the country’s standard of living.

Meanwhile, Côte d’Ivoire’s education system has continued to produce graduates who cannot find work in the stagnant economy. Richard Achi, my closest Ivorian friend, is a thoughtful 35-year-old social worker. He explains, “Every year, 40,000 young people sit the nationwide exams for government jobs. But there are only, say, 300 posts available. The rest of them have to find something else. Many of them survive by going out into the streets to do ‘marketing’—selling gadgets. Some of them get tremendously frustrated.”

It’s worth reading the entire piece. I’d like to see a piece like it on the Ivorian oil industry as well.

7:35 EDT: The government of Robert Mugabe now stands with Jean-Marie Le Pen, the International Fourth Committee of the International, Pat Robertson, Glenn Beck, and Sen, James Inhofe in supporting Laurent Gbagbo. Way to go, fellas.

9:00 EDT: I added a post about the die-hard suicide squad-supporters of Laurent Gbagbo here.

–What’s Gbagbo’s game in delaying? Mind games, essentially:

Veteran observers of this nation on Africa’s western edge say the turn of events could have been taken from a biography of Gbagbo.

In Abidjan, he has long been called “Le Boulanger,” French for “the baker,” because he rolls people in flour — a reference to a popular expression meaning to manipulate and deceive others.

“I think he’s playing for time,” said a senior diplomat who has closely followed events and spoke on condition of anonymity because he had not been cleared to speak to the media. “His aim is always to buy himself just one more day.”

“We are still negotiating, and it’s ongoing,” said the spokesman for Ouattara’s government, Patrick Achi. “We are waiting. There are ups and downs. (But) we won’t be waiting until his food runs out.”

He’s basically screwing with everyone because he can. The more he waits, though, the less patience everyone on the outside will have with him. Hell, they could find a way to break the door down for all I know. After yesterday, we can’t take that off the table.

10:00 EDT: OK, there’s no new news on this. I’m going to wrap this now and actually start tomorrow’s thread early.

Ivory Coast / Cote D’Ivoire Thread (4/4) Afternoon/Evening

with 2 comments

This is the second thread of the day. The earlier thread is here.

1:45 EDT: France 24 is reporting that 5 people including two French citizens were kidnapped today in the business section of Abidjan while it was under attack by Gbagbo forces.

–The #civsocial hashtag on Twitter is for “medical emergencies, health needs, medical, humanitarian emergencies. You can also findphone numbers of doctors and pharmacies in Abidjan.”

–So far, the Ouattara forces have not achieved either of their objectives of their offensive in Abidjan: the Presidential palace or the home of Laurent Gbagbo:

2:00 EDT: There are reports of a massive explosion at the Gbagbo military compound the UN helicopter fired on.

2:05 EDT: The French government has just released this press release (translated) that explains what the UN and French operations are doing:

“In recent weeks, the forces of Laurent Gbagbo have repeatedly used heavy weapons against civilians. In Resolution 1975, passed unanimously on March 30, the Security Council requested United Nations Operation in Côte D’Ivoire (UNOCI) to prevent such abuses. In accordance with its mandate to protect civilians, UNOCI has therefore to take action to neutralize the heavy weapons used against civilians and UN staff in Abidjan.  The United Nations Secretary-General has requested the support of French forces in these operations. The President of the Republic has responded positively to this request “…

— As one would expect following that statement, French helicopters are now also firing on Gbagbo’s military camps, per AFP.

–Deep thought: what we don’t know is if this will harden the resolve of Gbagbo’s Young Patriots (fight against foreign forces) or break them (they can’t overcome this). I’m skeptical, since nativism has been at the heart of Gbagbo’s approach since the beginning. The UN and France being involved should help Ouattara though, even if they’re not legally allowed to work for regime change. Any forces engaged with France or the UN are forces that can’t engage with Ouattara’s FRCI.

2:15 EDT: More from the French Government:

According to a statement from the Elysee, “The United Nations Secretary-General has requested the support of French forces in these operations. The President of the Republic has responded positively to this request and allowed French troops, acting under the mandate given to them given by the Security Council, to participate in operations conducted by UNOCI for the protection of civilians. “

and:

“France calls for immediate cessation of all violence against civilians. The perpetrators will be brought to justice.”

2:20 EDT: This is where the French are gathering:

The consolidation of the French was made “on a voluntary basis,” three points of Abidjan, said Monday the French Foreign Ministry, without giving figures on the number of people involved.

“The consolidation process began on a voluntary basis. Two new assembly points have been established, one at the hotel Wafou south bridge and one at the Embassy of France in North,” told a press briefing the spokesperson of the department, Bernard Valero.

The third point is the combination of French military camp of Port-Bouet, where more than 1,650 foreign nationals, including about half of French nationality, had sought refuge Sunday morning.

2:25 EDT: Pat Robertson joins James Inhofe, Jean-Marie Le Pen, Glenn Beck, and socialists from the International Committee of the Fourth International in supporting Laurent Gbagbo. And who said Communists and evangelicals could never work together?

.2:35 EDT: One report says UN forces fired on Gbagbo’s residences, which would be a drastic change. Assume that’s not the case until I confirm it; but if true everything would be changed.

Update: France 24 confirms that report. This is a stunning development – the line up until now had been that the UN had no jurisdiction to go after Gbagbo, only to protect civilians. This could change everything.

2:40 EDT: In the least surprising reaction in the history of humanity, Gbagbo’s spokesman in Paris called the strikes on the residence and palace “illegal” and “an assassination attempt.” That’s not too much of a stretch either. But since Gbagbo’s personally been arming thugs to attack civilians (not to mention using human shields, even if voluntary ones), that did make these strikes within a reasonable interpretation of the UN mandate to protect civilians.

2:50 EDT: This is a good map of Abidjan. It’s in French, but you can use Google translate for anything not clear.

2:55 EDT: Gbagbo’s spokesman in Paris Alain Toussaint blamed the US too:

“I condemn these illegal acts. They are acts of war. The purpose of this action is the assassination of President Gbagbo. (…) The international coalition led by France and the United States, under the aegis of the United Nations, plunges the country into chaos. “He accuses the former French colonial power to have “equipped, informed, and armed rebellion of Alassane Ouattara”

Any word on US involvement here?

3:00 EDT: This is the current state in Abidjan:

In Abidjan, we are holding our breath as the four-month crisis appears to enter its final days and hours. The capital city in all but name is left disfigured by war. Bodies burnt to ashes wait to be removed by absent funeral services; corpses in an advanced state of decomposition have a strong smell that even keeps stray dogs away.

That is the scene in the main streets in the Cocody district around the RTI, the premises of the state-run TV station, and several other places including the markets in Riviera 2 and the neighbourhood of the presidential palace in Plateau.

Facing starvation, we can no longer stay at home, so we have to face this macabre scene on our way to the small sub-district markets that are still open.

That’s one reason a quick end to the standoff is better than a long battle.

3:05 EDT: Report of the first UN helicopter strikes:

United Nations helicopters fired four missiles at a pro-Gbagbo military camp in Ivory Coast’s main city of Abidjan on Monday, witnesses said.

“We saw two UNOCI (U.N. mission in Ivory Coast) MI-24 helicopters fire missiles on the Akouedo military camp. There was a massive explosion and we can still see the smoke,” one of the witnesses said.

The camp is home to three battalions of the Ivorian army.

3:10 EDT: Reports now that Ouattara’s side is confident that Abidjan will fall within hours. He’s said this before, though.

Another report of the UN helicopter firing on Gbagbo forces. This is somewhat expected; what’s shocked me are the reports of UN helicopters firing on Gbagbo’s residences – which I haven’t seen expanded upon yet beyond France 24 reporting that it happened.

3:15 EDT: A report of who exactly was kidnapped. The translation is somewhat rough:

Yves Lambelin

Yves Lambelin

Reportedly, among the two French kidnapped with two or three other people by pro-Gbagbo SDS in Abidjan included Novotel Yves Lambelin, chairman of the board of directors of Sifca (whose president is Jean-Louis Billon ). The MI-24 of UNOCI who opened fire against the gendarmerie camp Agban reacted visibly to recurrent attacks of Gbagbo camp against their base Sebroko.

This is Lambelin pictured here, picture from here. SIFCA is an agribusiness group.

3:30 EDT: Overcoming technical difficulties on my end. Here’s a longer report on the attacks on Gbagbo’s residences:

According to witnesses, at least four missiles were fired from UN helicopters in Abidjan, the economic capital.

Hamadou Toure, the UN’s chief spokesman in Ivory Coast, told The Daily Telegraph the UN had struck two military camps controlled by Mr Gbagbo along with the presidential palace and his residence.

He declined to say what weapons were being used, but stressed that care was being taken to ensure civilians were not being harmed. “We are engaged in neutralising the heavy weapons that Mr Gbagbo’s special forces have been using for the last few months against civilians and our forces,” he said.

“Despite all our warnings and alerts, they kept using these heavy weapons against us. What we are doing is in line with our mandate and in line with resolution 1975 adopted last week. Our mandate is protect innocent lives and that is what we are doing.”

The strikes were carried out by helicopters from the French force Licorne.

The UN representative also said that 11 of its workers had been shot in the past week, and that its remaining forces were in fact under siege..

3:35 EDT: The Financial Times reports that ECOWAS, regional countries, are now thinking of getting involved in military action in Cote D’Ivoire as well. This at least gives better legitimacy to the French action, similar to the Arab League endorsement in Libya.

3:40 EDT: One of the leaders of a coup who tried to overthrow Gbagbo a decade ago, Ibrahim Coulibaly, is now claiming to be a leader othe Invisible Commandos, a separate army supporting Ouattara. He claims to have had no contact with Ouattara himself. If nothing else, times like this bring all the shady characters out of the woodwork.

3:50 EDT: Video is starting to emerge of the UN/French strikes in Abidjan.

4:10 EDT: There are rumors that Gbagbo’s family is in Ghana.

4:15 EDT: The French army chief of staff, Thierry Burkhard, said the helicopters fired up heavy weapons and armored detachments that had been used against civilian populations.

4:25 EDT: Video of the strikes today.

4:30 EDT: Ban Ki-Moon says that the strikes were lunched to protect civilians and not to attack Gbagbo. He’s drawing a very thin line here.

4:45 EDT: Full statement of Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon

I am very concerned about developments in Côte d’Ivoire.

The security situation has deteriorated dramatically over the past days with fighting having escalated between forces loyal to President Ouattara and those forces remaining loyal to Mr. Gbagbo. This is a direct consequence of Mr. Gbagbo’s refusal to relinquish power and allow a peaceful transition to President Ouattara.

The country has been plunged into violence with a heavy toll on the civilian population.

In the past few days, forces loyal to Mr. Gbagbo have intensified and escalated their use of heavy weapons such as mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns against the civilian population in Abidjan.

These forces have also targeted the Headquarters of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) at Sebroko Hotel with heavy-calibre sniper fire as well as mortars and rocket-propelled grenades. Four peacekeepers have been wounded in these attacks. Furthermore, forces loyal to Mr. Gbagbo have attacked UNOCI patrols dispatched to protect civilians and convoys transporting wounded in Abidjan, resulting in several more wounded peacekeepers.

Consequently, pursuant to paragraph 6 of Security Council resolution 1975 (2011) of 30 March 2011, I have instructed the Mission to take the necessary measures to prevent the use of heavy weapons against the civilian population, with the support of the French forces pursuant to paragraph 17 of Security Council resolution 1962 (2010).

In this regard, around 5pm local time today, UNOCI undertook a military operation to prevent the use of heavy weapons which threaten the civilian population of Abidjan.

I have informed the Security Council. The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations will brief the Security Council soon.

Let me emphasize that UNOCI is not a party to the conflict. In line with its Security Council mandate, the Mission has taken this action in self defence and to protect civilians. .

I again remind all those who commit serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws that they will be held accountable.

4:55 EDT: Save the Children is launching a major initiative to help victims of the violence in Cote D’Ivoire.

As the humanitarian crisis grows, Save the Children’s $40 million appeal will support its response in Ivory Coast and Liberia to meet the needs of 650,000 people affected by the crisis. The latest figures suggest around 130,000 Ivoirians have fled to Liberia. Some 60 percent of the refugees are thought to be children.

“Children are being exposed to this violence; they have been hearing gunshots for days, explosions as well,” said a Save the Children worker in Abidjan. “It’s an extremely stressful and frightening situation for them.”

The violence is preventing families across the city from buying food. “Families need food, the markets are closed, peoples’ household stocks are being used up, and nobody is leaving their houses,” said the Save the Children employee.

As tensions mount, Save the Children is concerned about children potentially being targeted because of their parents’ perceived political views or their families’ ethnicity. As reports of intercommunal violence in the town of Duékoué emerge, we are increasingly concerned about children suffering as a result of these clashes.

5:00 EDT: Doctors without Borders issued a statement today about the conditions they are working under:

How do MSF teams manage to work in Abidjan?

We have been stuck in the offices and at the hospital for the last three days. We can hear gun shots. There are blockades on the streets, and violence continues. The situation is extremely tense and we cannot get out. No cars can move. This morning five wounded arrived very near our offices; we have been able to treat four, but the fifth one died.

[. . .]

What is the situation for displaced people in Abidjan?

In Abobo and Anyama, the northern neighborhoods of Abidjan, there are 11 sites for displaced people where between 10,000 and 12,000 have sought refuge from other parts of the city. People in those sites receive practically no aid at all. Individuals have given them bags of rice. MSF donated bandage kits to private health centers and clinics in the area. We were also getting ready to provide consultation, but it is impossible at the moment. The problem in Abidjan is that we cannot move around, reach our drug stocks, or bring our orders into town.

MSF is also working in Guiglo in the West of the country. What is the situation there?

An MSF team is based in Guiglo where it provides primary health care. It also refers patients who need surgery to the town of Bangolo, where MSF is also working. Guiglo hospital was looted but considering the circumstances, we have had to treat seven patients there anyway. The situation is now calmer in Guiglo, but it is not the case in other western regions.

Truly horrific working conditions.

5:05 EDT: The Ouattara forces said a final assault on Gbagbo’s Presidential palace was imminent, and a UN/French helicopter may have fired again on targets near to it.

5:15 EDT: More information is coming out regarding the kidnapping from earlier. Two French, A Beninese citizen and a Malaysian were kidnapped, including Yves Lambelin.

5:20 EDT: Beth Dickinson reports that the price of rice has doubled with the 80,000 refugees from Cote D’Ivoire in the past 5 weeks.

–Additionally, there’s a good piece up on Foreign Policy about the democratic deficit of international bodies.

5:25 EDT: The Security Council is going to meet behind closed doors to review the strikes in Cote D’Ivoire.

–1,900 foreigners are under French protection in the country; 447 have already left.

5:35 EDT: Loud explosions were heard in the Agban camp.

5:50 EDT: Jean-Marie Le Pen is back! And he calls the French intervention in Cote D’Ivoire irresponsible:

[F]ormer president of the National Front Jean-Marie Le Pen has described Monday as “irresponsible” decision to “make intervene militarily in the French army the Ivorian civil war ” which puts him as “at risk” French nationals in the country. “Sarkozy’s decision to intervene militarily in the French army in the Ivorian civil war is an irresponsible act that threatens the French community in this country, “the founder of the party extreme right in a statement. “Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, will therefore not serve as a lesson to Will in the war who forget they left France to become a dwarf military, “he adds.

Once again, if Le Pen is against something, it’s a good rule of thumb to look at it favorably.

–The UN evacuated many staff members to Bouake in the north of the country.

6:15 EDT: Jim Inhofe takes his proselytizing on Cote D’Ivoire to the Senate Floor.

6:20 EDT: Only veterans of the Bush Administration could look at the immediate tragedy in Cote D’Ivoire and not want an immediate ceasing to the violence, but instead a permanent solution:

But as fighting continues — with reports of around 1,000 found dead over the weekend– critics say the White House is neglecting the conflict and instead has focused on the Middle East.

“Rather than merely search yet again for short-term solutions in the violent aftermath of an election, it would be more sensible to look for ways to prevent future crises rooted in Africa’s dysfunctional political systems,” Jendayi Frazer, a former Bush administration Under Secretary of State for African Affairs, wrote in the International Herald Tribune.

The first thing that needs to happen is that the fighting needs to stop. Once that happens, you can negotiate some sort of long term scenario. Guess what? America can’t solve all of Cote D’Ivoire’s problems by sunset tomorrow. It’s just not possible.
Given that the entire Fox article criticizes Obama for not intervening, I look forward to their article tomorrow once they found out that France did intervene and somehow criticize Obama for that. The entire article was devoid of substance regarding Cote D’Ivoire.
–I’ve outlasted one French liveblog today (in fairness I started later as well).
French video of what appears to be Gbagbo’s spokesman in France. Proceed only if you understand French.
–France24 is reporting that Ouattara forces have entered Gbagbo’s residence, but it has not been confirmed yet. This reportedly is the video.

6:45 EDT: A spokesman for Ouattara’s government says they have taken up residence in one of Gbagbo’s residences (either the palace or the personal residence), but have not said which one; also, nothing is confirmed.

–When the palace was struck it is not clear if Young Patriots were injured.

7:00 EDT: Reuters reports that it was Gbagbo’s official residence, not the Presidential Palace.

–Adam Nossiter’s piece on Cote D’Ivoire in the New York Times.

7:15 EDT: Still no word on where Laurent Gbagbo himself is.

–Ban Ki-Moon is reiterating that the United Nations is not a party to the conflict, that they were only firing upon weapons and forces used to hurt civilians (and it just coincidentally happened during a major offensive by Ouattara.

8:00 EDT: United Nations investigators found a mass grave in Duekoue with 200 bodies in it. The situation appears complex:

Duekoue, which lies in the cocoa-growing belt of western Ivory Coast, was captured by Ouattara’s forces on March 29. The West African country is the world’s leading cocoa producer.  Amos said she could not say who was responsible for the killings. People she had spoken to had variously blamed them on Ouattara’s forces, fleeing pro-Gbagbo forces and local militia, as well as conflict between natives and non-natives.  A Ouattara representative who met with her said the presidential claimant was keen that there should be an independent investigation, she said.

[. . .]

Amos described a humanitarian crisis in Duekoue, with over 40,000 people who had fled from neighboring villages taking shelter at a Roman Catholic mission, and a Protestant church accommodating over 1,000 more.  “You can imagine the conditions are terrible,” she said. “But people are feeling a degree of security because they have managed to get away from the violence.”  “I could see for myself today the fear, the horror,” she said, adding that food and water were in short supply.  Amos said there had been a lot of looting in Duekoue and some buildings had been torched, but the town, which in normal times has a population of 120,000, had not been flattened. There appeared to be no fighting there at present, she added.

There should be an independent investigation and no one should rush to judgment; on the other hand, no side seems likely to have clean hands here.

8:05 EDT: I was going to get into this deeper, but the main problem with Glenn Beck’s “analysis” here is the same as with most of the right: they look at surface facts and conscientiously refuse to see if they are truly representative. In this case, that Gbagbo is Christian and Ouattara is Muslim is utterly meaningless: religion isn’t key to either side internally. Indeed it’s only effect has been Gbagbo desperately searching for external support. In that, you could say that Beck and Pat Robertson and James Inhofe are really letting themselves be used by a tyrant for his own purposes.

8:50 EDT: It’s the middle of the night in Cote D’Ivoire but France24 (in French) is still relaying stories from people who hear bombing/shelling every 5 to 20 minutes, so there’s still fighting going on somewhere.

9:15 EDT: A point worth reiterating from this Doctors Without Borders story: because it’s impossible to get around in Abidjan, we have absolutely no idea how many people are hurt, injured, or dead. This is terrifying, mostly because of the silence.

–Along the same lines, France24’s liveblog apologized for not being able to confirm anything. And it’s true, we have claims of a lot of things, but nothing after the UN/French helicopter attacks has been confirmed, and those were hours ago.

9:30 EDT: Reuters has posted two of their photos of airstrikes here and here. I’m glad they did, but all you can see is a fire burning at night.

9:40 EDT: This is a good, concise summary of the day’s dramatic events.

10:15 EDT: This is what Gbagbo has left and is still fighting for:

Explosions and gunfire rang out from the direction of the Presidential Palace, the state broadcaster RTI, and one of two bridges connecting the lagoon-side city to the airport — among the last strategic footholds held by the incumbent leader who has refused to step down since a November election.

Attack helicopters commanded by the United Nations mission in the West African country fired missiles at Gbagbo’s military bases, and near his official residence, causing huge explosions that shook nearby homes and smashed windows, witnesses said.

A spokesman for Ouattara’s government later said pro-Ouattara forces seized Gbagbo’s residence, situated in the leafy Cocody neighbourhood, but the information could not independently confirmed and a pro-Gbagbo military source who asked not to be named denied it.

I doubt there will be confirmation until the morning, still a few hours away.

–The latest report in to France24 (not confirmed by any stretch of the imagination) had Gbago holding off the French and UN forces.

11:20 EDT: Amazingly, Cote D’Ivoire did not come up in today’s State Department briefing, something it has in common with Andrew Sullivan’s debut at the Daily Beast.

11:30 EDT: A Gambonese politician concluded that the French operations in Cote D’Ivoire were illegal (English link). I don’t agree but I’ll take a closer look tomorrow about whether the actions exceed the Security Council Resolutions relevant.

12:15 EDT: Al Jazeera has video of people literally being burnt alive. Truly harrowing.

That wraps up today’s live coverage. I’m gonna sleep some and try to do better tomorrow.

Ivory Coast / Cote D’Ivoire Thread (4/4) Morning/Early Afternoon

with 6 comments

10:00 EDT: Live blog now up. If you missed it, I had two posts on Cote D’Ivoire already today. The first on the continuing shame of James Inhofe supporting Laurent Gbagbo, and the second on why both sides are attacking the UN and why intervention will not work.

This is going to fill up quickly – I have about 25 open tabs each with an important story. So keep coming back.

Picture to the right from here, used under a Creative Commons License from the Department for International Development.

10:05 EDT: I mentioned this in the second post from above, the Ouattara’s ambassador to France attacked the UN for not stopping the massacre in Duekoue. He also denied responsibility of any of Ouattara’s forces. The former was impossible to do, the latter is an outright lie. Everytime an Ouattara spokesman says soemthing encouraging like there will be no impunity for anyone, it’s immediately covered up by something like this.

10:15 EDT: Oxfam has new podcasts up from the field in Cote D’Ivoire. Give them both a listen.

10:20 EDT: Al Jazeera is reporting that Gbagbo has been arming men and getting them ready for this fight for years. Others he’s using as human shields. Meanwhile, Ouattara’s force, the FRCI has 9,000 men ready to fight in Abidjan.

–Penelope Chester expands on her comparison of Cote D’Ivoire to Liberia from yesterday:

Laurent Gbagbo’s desperate hold on power is profoundly reminiscent of Charles Taylor’s in Liberia. Like Taylor, Gbagbo has his most loyal men controlling key areas, while he continues to sit in the presidential palace. Monrovia’s unique geography played into the hands of advancing rebel forces, who were able to isolate Taylor in the center of Monrovia by taking over bridges leading into the city. In Abidjan, the layout is different, but, similarly to Monrovia, there are islands and bridges, which are strategically important in urban warfare – whoever gains control of access routes has the advantage.  The airport, which is currently controlled by UN and French forces, is on an island. The presidential palace sits on a peninsula.

I don’t know how long this siege will last. Gbagbo will not step down, and will not leave easily. The best case scenario is that he’s currently negotiating exile conditions in a third country and will get airlifted with his family. Worst case scenario is that the presidential palace where he sits is stormed by rebels and he is killed. At this stage, I’d say both of these possibilities are equally as realistic.

It’s our responsibility to bear witness to what is happening in Cote d’Ivoire now. Unspeakable crimes have already been committed by both sides of the conflict, and will continue to happen. Media and public attention are not silver bullets, but along with the real threat of prosecution, may help attenuate the levels of violence. At least, that is my hope.

If Gbagbo was willing to leave in exile, I think he would have done so by now. Hopefully, for everyone’s sake, I’m just being overly pessimistic.

10:40 EDT: Elizabeth Dickinson at Foreign Policy sees the same worst case scenario that I do, and notes that it won’t be over even when Gbagbo leaves:

How did we end up here? After months of warnings that this country was on the brink of civil war, it has now been allowed to fall from the precipace. And it looks as if the world is fresh out of ideas about what to do from here. Economic sanctions failed to squeeze Gbagbo into retirement; so did enticements and final offers for amnesty. Everyone — Washington, Brussels, Paris, the U.N. — is calling for the protection of civilians. Clearly that’s not enough. Paul Collier had an interesting idea a while back to force defections within the army around Gbagbo, but that seems a bit late now.

So here’s what’s probably going to happen: Ouattara’s forces, which are arguably the legitimate army in this country, will likely be allowed to fight on until Gbagbo is eventually ousted. Everyone will yell and scream that civilians should be protected in the meantime. But everyone knows that this crisis doesn’t end until Gbagbo goes, and again, we’re fresh out of other options.

I’m not convinced that it even ends then — after Gbagbo is forced out one way or another. Remember, this election was contested on a relatively close vote, and Gbagbo does retain support from much of the population. As much as Ouattara has talked about being the president for all Ivorians, the story on the ground is looking more complicated to piece together. This is about more than two men’s egos at this point. It’s about a country, back in civil war. And if we’d like to prevent a protracted armed conflict, maybe it’s time to start plotting out options if it comes to that.

This is going to get a lot worse.

10:45 EDT: Gbagbo’s government is attempting to block internet access to critical websites:

The Côte d’Ivoire Telecommunications Agency (ATCI) announced in a directive dated 24 March that it intends to block access to several independent and anti-Gbagbo websites. Reporters Without Borders has obtained a copy of the directive and is distributing it.

“Internet operators and service providers are prohibiting access from within Côte d’Ivoire to the following websites: http://www.abidjan.net, http://www.lavoixdugolf.net, http://www.connectionivoirienne.net, http://www.primaturecotedivoire.net, http://www.koaci.com, http://www.lebanco.net and http://www.informateur.net,” says the directive signed by ATCI director-general Sylvanus Kla.

“This list is not exhaustive,” the directive continues. “This decision is adopted in the strict framework of National Defence and Public Security and takes effect from the date it is signed [24 March].”

“The websites targeted by this act of censorship continue to be accessible although six days have elapsed since the ATCI directive,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard said. “Does this entity really intend to censor them or is it a warning or act of intimidation towards those who operate them?

Not surprising that they’d try this. It’s a little surprising that they haven’t actually gone through with it. Does Gbagbo not control that any more?

10:50 EDT: No idea what the source for this or if the person is reliable, but Twitter user @JeannetteMallet writes: “URGENT: According to a witness,#Gbagbo plans to bomb the Cathedral of St. Paul in Plateau & implicated the FRCI.” (FRCI being, again, Ouattara’s force).

She says this is what she has been told directly. Wit honly one source, and reported on Twitter, I would not put a lot of stock into it.

11:00 EDT: Russian oil company LUKoil have suspended operations in Cote D’Ivoire, per a Russian news agency (second hand twitter account link). It’s unclear if this will change Russia’s position on Cote D’Ivoire, but it’s already too late for the UN to do much of anything, as noted above). More on LUKoil here and here.

11:05 EDT: France is organizing French citizens in Abidjan in preparation of an evacuation that has not yet happened.

11:15 EDT: Information out of Abidjan is scarce, but there are some reports massive food inflation is starting to occur as supplies run low.

–In case you wanted a more recent link for the socialists supporting Gbagbo’s thugs, see here. I’m comfortable being on the other side of them and Le Pen, thank you very much.

11:25 EDT: Breaking News; Ouattara’s FRCI has started its offensive in Abidjan just recently. More as it happens. As they say, Developing…

–Enduring America has some background on the conflict, making one important point: while religion is important to some outside observers (think: Le Pen and James Inhofe) it’s not as important to those internally, and both the north and south are mixed between Christian and Muslim. The nativism of Gbagbo is more ethnic and less religious.

–Andrew Harding blogs about his experience reporting in Duekoue:

A group of Ivorian soldiers are sitting in the shade at nearby roadblock. We must have driven through 30 just like it to reach the town. The men are supporters of the man recognised as the winner of last year’e elections, Alassane Ouattara. They, and militias linked to them, swept through the region early last week, seizing huge chunks of territory from forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo, who refuses to cede power. This was one of the few places – leaving aside the main city, Abidjan – where they seem to have encountered serious resistance.

“Us? We didn’t kill any of them,” says a young soldier insistently. “I was injured myself. It was the militia groups – they were fighting each other.” The UN soldier comes over and wags a finger: “You mustn’t kill them,” he says. “If you have prisoners, bring them to the authorities. No more killing.” They nod. But the UN man tells me that they’ve rescued several prisoners from cars in recent days. They suspect they were being driven out of town to be killed discreetly.

We run into Anne-Marie Altherr, deputy country director for the International Commitee of the Red Cross (ICRC), who is organising the collection of bodies. “It’s really difficult,” she says. “There’s been a lot of dead people. It’s definitely tough work – especially for the volunteers because they’re from here so it’s their community.”

But significantly, she says she won’t discuss numbers. The death toll has become a hotly disputed, highly sensitive issue. Last week, the ICRC said 800 were killed. Then another aid agency, Caritas suggested 1,000. But the UN has quietly disputed, and scaled down, those figures, and so – furiously – have officials from Mr Ouattara’s government.

Horrible.

11:30 EDT: In case you were wondering, the UN issued a new call to protect civilians in Abidjan that will likely be ignored.

–Justin Elliot flags a piece on the connections between Gbagbo and James Inhofe, this time Inhofe trying to get Gbagbo a job in America:

Inhofe sometimes has framed his interest in Africa in religious terms, once calling it “a Jesus thing,” and he told The Oklahoman two years ago that he first went to the continent at the urging of Doug Coe, the longtime organizer of the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington.

Gbagbo and his wife are evangelical Christians. Ouattara is Muslim.

Inhofe knows Gbagbo and his wife, which is why Yamamoto reached out to him. Inhofe said Yamamoto told him that there would be a teaching position for Gbagbo at Boston University and a job for his wife.

Boston University hosts the African Presidential Archive and Research Center, which, according to its website, “provides residential opportunities for democratically elected former African heads of state.” The center is headed by Charles Stith, the former U.S. ambassador to Tanzania.

Responding to an inquiry from The Oklahoman, Stith said Friday that the residency program at the center is for African heads of state and government that leave office as a result of the democratic process.

“Had Gbagbo left office after the election (even under protest regarding the process and outcome) he could have been considered a prospective candidate for our program,” Stith said. “Given that he is likely to be carried out of office on a rail or spit, the issue of a residency opportunity at Boston University or anywhere is moot, at this point.”

I was not aware that evangelical Christians are permitted to use human shields to protect themselves when they lose elections.

11:40 EDT: France now has 1,650 military personnel in Cote D’Ivoire, and they are actively protecting about 1,800 foreign nationals at the military camp of Port-Bouet. About half of the foreign nationals are French.

11:45 EDT: When I hear someone like Glenn Beck accusing Ouattara of murdering babies, the first thing I think of are the internal dynamics of the FRCI, which are not easy for outsiders (even well informed ones) to understand. This is Reuters giving it a go:

But sources in and around the Ouattara camp say the hesitation is also at least in part to do with divisions among top military brass jostling for influence in a post-Gbagbo government.  Fighters following Ibrahim “IB” Coulibaly — a key figure in the so-called “invisible commandos” whose guerrilla tactics have foxed Gbagbo forces across Abidjan in recent weeks — say their allegiance is to IB, not Ouattara.  “IB wants to be president. He is an idiot,” Wattao told Reuters dismissively at the weekend.

An equally plausible explanation is that he and other commanders are simply biding their time for the right moment militarily — but the question is how long they can wait.  A source inside Ouattara’s camp denied that there were divisions within the ranks, adding that the final assault was taking a little longer than expected because they wanted to secure gains first.

At their camp, some of Wattao’s men noted that Sunday’s ration of bread came without the usual tin of sardines.  But the overall mood at the camp remained calm, almost jokey.  To much laughter, one man dressed in police uniform handed out pink parking tickets to drivers of pick-up trucks loaded with machine-guns that were parked in a row in the middle of the empty motorway.

This is one reason I’ve been saying that investigations and prosecutions are more important than laying blame at the Presidential level – because we don’t know what happened, and we don’t know the dynamics of power. This is where the international community can help (if and) when things calm down – by ensuring there are such investigations and prosecutions.

11:50 EDT: South Africa joined in the condemnation of violence in Cote D’Ivoire. They also explained how Gbagbo’s army chief Phillippe Mangou left the South African embassy yesterday to rejoin Gbagbo:

Asked why Gbagbo’s army chief, General Phillippe Mangou, who had sought asylum with his family in the South African embassy in Abidjan, had left on Sunday, the minister said: “I’m not in the Ivory Coast but I know he sought refuge in our embassy and there are conditions in asking for such refuge.

She confirmed that Mangou had chosen to leave.

“We don’t know why as conditions were as they would be internationally.”

So basically, they’re saying Mangou just left his family there in the embassy to go back out and likely martyr himself?

11:55 EDT: Oxfam is tweeting pictures of the work they are doing in the region, here supplying water to refugees.

–Along with Mangou, another Gbagbo supporter mysteriously reappeared with no explanation:

Charles Ble Goude, who also was invisible from the start of the offensive of the Republican forces in Abidjan, made his reappearance on the RTI. Like all patriotic leaders of the galaxy that had preceded it, the emblematic leader of the Young Patriots called for the mobilization of all supporters of Laurent Gbagbo, including asking them to assist the army in its search operations.

Taking good care not to cross certain red lines, Charles Ble Goude reiterated the arguments already developed by the whole entourage of Laurent Gbagbo: Côte d’Ivoire is engaged in a war against the rest of the soldiers and pro-Ouattara operating with the complicity of UNOCI and France.

12:00 EDT: Looking for an inspirational story amidst all this? How about an American with Ivory Coast connections anonymously going back to the country to basically be the tech support for Ouattara. Why anonymous? Because he has family in Abidjan who would probably die immediately if his name got out. This is a wow story:

So the American, who owns a high-tech communications company in the U.S. that does business in Africa, got the call. Would he come back to Ivory Coast to help Ouattara fight an information war he was losing?

The American insists on anonymity for fear of violence against his family, some of whom are in Abidjan, which has seen its narrow dirt alleys become a killing field.

“They’re actually trying to find out who is helping” Ouattara, says the American, 45, who left Ivory Coast 30 years ago and is a friend of the president-elect.

Before the American came on board, Ouattara had no presence on TV, while Gbagbo’s state-owned television station accused rebels of massacres and claimed the United Nations was guilty of a genocidal conspiracy with France to kill Ivorians and install a foreigner to rule the country. Ouattara’s fighters briefly got hold of the station Thursday but Gbagbo’s fighters took it back and have used it to call on young militias to fight to the death for Gbagbo.

[. . .]

With Ouattara and his government trapped by Gbagbo forces in Abidjan’s Golf Hotel since December, the American took over a restaurant in the hotel and turned it into a pro-Ouattara television station.

The American also set up an FM radio studio and created a satellite link, more difficult for Gbagbo to scramble than the terrestrial channel.

It’s a daily battle of wits, as Gbagbo’s experts try to scramble Ouattara’s signals by broadcasting on the same frequency. “I try to anticipate their next move,” he says.

Stop what you’re doing and read this. Would you do what this person did? I’d like to think I would, but who knows.

And by the way, if we’re talking about American exceptionalism, this is the peak of it for me. This is the best of what Americans can do and what America means.

And now, back to the depressing side of the news.

12:10 EDT: Ian Birrell highlights what a big problem it is that certain leaders in Africa refuse to leave power:

The events have also served to highlight one of the biggest issues facing Africa: the reluctance of Big Men such as Gbagbo to leave office. We have just seen this in Uganda, where Yoweri Museveni used state patronage to cling on to power after 25 years despite once admitting Africa’s problems were caused by “leaders who overstay”.

There are 19 elections due in Africa over the next 18 months, including a critical poll this week in Nigeria. There needs to be a far tougher line against despots who refuse to be dislodged. The African Union must show leadership while the west should stop showering them in aid and selling them weapons. Just as in the countries north of the Sahara, new generations need leaders who represent them, not repress them.

This is indeed a good point; all the benefits a democracy brings are only effective if leaders abide by the results of free and fair elections. When that does not happen, nothing at all works. We’ve seen that across the globe.

12:15 EDT: Action Against Hunger has posted 6 pictures of refugees on facebook. I’ve posted one here under a Creative Commons license.

Texas in Africa thought of a great way citizens elsewhere can help those in Cote D’Ivoire: by getting free SMS messaging if possible:

This is a fantastic idea, and one where ordinary people around the world can get involved. Many Ivoirians, especially those in Abidjan, have been afraid to leave their homes for a few days now, and most shops in the city are closed, meaning that people can’t buy top up cards for their mobile phones. Also, many Ivoirians haven’t been able to work for several days, meaning that even if they could find top up cards, they wouldn’t be able to afford them. Orange, MTN, and Moov could provide a huge public service (and get lots of positive publicity) by opening up their networks to allow free SMSing during this crisis. I would gladly donate to a fund to help cover the costs of doing so – and I bet I’m not the only one.

Here’s information on how to contact the corporate offices of Orange, MTN, and Moov. I’m using corporate offices at the highest level because it may be hard to reach the offices in Cote d’Ivoire right now. If you have any other suggestions, please note them in the comments below.

  • Orange is part of France Telecom. Contact their Corporate Social Responsibility office by filling out the form here.
  • MTN Group is based in South Africa and only provides phone numbers and physical addresses. This is why Skype exists; spend the 20 cents and call them on +27 11 912 3000 or +27 11 912 4123.
  • Moov is based in the UAE and its operations are under the Etisalat trade name. Fill out their online feedback form here.

[. . .]

UPDATE: A couple of commenters point out that SMS services have been turned off in Cote d’Ivoire for several weeks per Gbagbo’s orders. I don’t see any reason that the phone companies could not override that order, but perhaps I’m wrong. At any rate, asking for free airtime and for the companies to do all they can to get the SMS networks running is also worth our while.

Any reason this can’t happen?

12:20 EDT: A list of some doctors available in Cote D’Ivoire.

12:25 EDT: The United Nations threatens helicopter attacks? Umm, OK.

Choi Young-jin, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Ivory Coast, told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme: “We are fast approaching a tipping point.  “We are planning action, we can no longer condone their [Mr Gbagbo’s forces] reckless and mindless attack on civilians and the United Nations blue helmets with heavy weapons.”  “We are now in a way under siege, so we cannot go out freely, [they’re] targeting us with snipers, it’s a deliberate shoot at United Nations.

“For the last few days we have 11 [peacekeepers] wounded by their gunshots. They are targeting the headquarters, they cut off the water… and we are now in the bunker.”  The special representative said the 9,000 troops who are part of the UN mission in Ivory Coast (Unoci) did not have a mandate to dislodge Mr Gbagbo, but they did have the powers to respond to heavy weapons attacks against the UN or civilians.  “We will be using our air assets,” he said. “We will be taking action soon,” he added.

The UN in Ivory Coast has a Ukrainian aviation unit with three Mi-24 attack helicopters, as well as lightly armed Mi-8 and Mi-17 utility helicopters.  It says 20 of its peacekeepers have been injured in total since the recent crisis began in the West African country.

I’m sure they can do some good this way, but this is just going to make the UN even more of a target and entrench Gbagbo even more, since his whole rationale is that the world is trying to dislodge him, the good Ivorian. It’s nonense, of course. But in the close urban combat of Abidjan, what can helicopters really do if they can’t actively support Ouattara’s forces because they have no mandate to get rid of Gbagbo? At the most, they could protect the road to the airport to get civilians out. Beyond that I’m highly skeptical of this UN force being effective in the least.

12:30 EDT: Proving that the bond market, does, in fact, control everything, Cote D’Ivoire’s bond fell as traders became less optimistic of a quick resolution in the country:

In Ivory Coast, the $2.3 billion 2032 bond suffered a setback as fighting continued between rival presidential claimants. The bond XS0496488395=R which rose last week, on hopes incumbent Laurent Gbagbo would soon be forced out, fell 1.7 points to 47.6 and the yield rose 0.4 percent.

“(Abidjan) has not fallen as quickly as some people anticipated, so there could be a certain amount of profit-taking,” said Stuart Culverhouse, chief economist at Exotix brokerage.

12:35 EDT: More details are emerging on the Ouattara offensive in Abidjan:

A convoy of several dozen vehicles containing heavily armed pro-Ouattara troops and outfitted with mounted machineguns entered Ivory Coast’s main city at midday, the first elements of a large force that had massed on the northern outskirts for what they called a “final assault”, according to a Reuters eyewitness.

Heavy machinegun fire and a few explosions could be heard minutes after they entered the city limits.

The commanding officer of the forces, Issiaka “Wattao” Ouattara, told Reuters he had 4,000 men with him plus another 5,000 already in the city. Asked how long he would need to take Abidjan, Wattao said: “We know when it starts, but could take 48 hours to properly clean (the city).”

[. . .]

Speaking on Sunday on the pro-Ouattara TCI television channel, Ouattara’s prime minister Guillaume Soro said their strategy had been to encircle the city, harass Gbagbo’s troops and gather intelligence on their arsenal.

12:45 EDT: In case you were wondering, here is the report of witnesses saying Ouattara’s forces massacred people in Duekoue.

–Al Jazeera launched a Cote D’Ivoire “spotlight” page, which basically looks a lot shinier than this.

1:00 EDT: Reports are emerging that the UN headquarters in Abidjan are under siege. They are not confirmed, yet, and I’m not really sure how they could be unless the UN itself says so. (So far, it’s just from a “UN man”). For what it’s worth, I believe it, though we don’t know which side is doing the sieging. Gbagbo’s side (either the Republican Guard or Young Patriots) would be my guess but there’s no way to know for sure.

1:10 EDT: John Irish on France’s position in Cote D’Ivoire:

Unlike in Libya, Paris has extensive political and economic interests in Ivory Coast and 12,000 citizens, including 8,000 dual nationals, on the ground there.

The precedent guiding Sarkozy is his anxiousness to avoid scenes in 2004, when militiamen hunted down French people in Ivory Coast, prompting the French army to evacuate them from rooftops, in retaliation for France’s support of the north in a 2002-03 civil war that split the country in two

[. . .]

“France must stay within its U.N. mandate to protect civilians which is what it’s doing by increasing troops,” said Bouquet said.

“This is already a lot because it means they will have to move around town with armoured vehicles and nobody doubts that the Gbgabo camp will accuse France of interfering.”

France (and the UN for that matter) has basically two options here: protect it’s citizens and hold the airport, or get foreign nationals out and let happen whatever may happen. For all I know they’re complicit in getting it to this point. But now it doesn’t matter how many meetings Sarkozy has, unless he can convince Gbagbo to leave this is not going to end well.

1:30 EDT: A UN helicopter did, in fact, fire on a Gbagbo military camp in Abidjan. A sulfur smell is reported nearby.

1:40 EDT: Humanitarian assistance is rushing to refugees and the displaced:

Humanitarian agencies are rushing to help thousands of displaced people in Ivory Coast who are in urgent need of assistance. Tens of thousands, for example, have crowded around a Catholic mission in the western town of Duekoue. Too many for what little food and water are available.

Jean-Philippe Chauzy, spokesman for the International Organization for Migration, said, “Currently, IOM has deployed in Duekoue, alongside Caritas, colleagues from UNHCR and the World Food Program, and what we’re doing at the moment is carrying out the very first registration of the displaced. Obviously, the needs are enormous. Access to potable water remains very difficult and also to latrines. Obviously, action will be taken to and prevent the spread of diarrheal diseases.”

There’s also a short audio clip.

That wraps up this thread. I’m moving the live blog to a clean thread here.

Why Intervention Can’t Work in Cote D’Ivoire

with 2 comments

Both sides are attacking the UN. Laurent Gbagbo has built his rump support on stark nativism, attacking both Ouattara for being foreign and the UN and the world for trying to tell Cote D’Ivoire what to do (not exactly the truth, of course, but that’s his story and he’s sticking with it). Meanwhile, the government of Alassane Ouattara, the would be President of Cote D’Ivoire, is now attacking the UN too (very rough translation but clear enough):

Ally Coulibaly, Ambassador of Ivory Coast in France appointed by the president recognized by the international community Alassane Ouattara, said Monday that the United Nations Organization Mission in Cote d`Ivoire (UNOCI) was absent during the massacres reported in the west of the country.

ONUCI tells us that `there are massacres but where was UNOCI?  UNOCI was not in place when the Republican forces (pro-Ouattara, Ed) arrived, was the `ONUCI subscribers absent, we can not come after accusations (…), seek to tarnish the picture of the president Alassane Ouattara, “he denounced on France-Info radio.

“Let there had been massacres, nobody can deny,” he further said. But “in no way the Republican forces are involved in these killings,” assured Ally Coulibaly, adding that “the prosecutor Daloa region (center-west) was asked to clarify the facts.”

First, yes, the Ouattara forces were almost certainly involved in some horrible way. There’s enough reports from eyewitnesses saying as much. Second, UNOCI peacekeepers were in the area, but were  vastly outnumbers and probably unable to do more in the face of massive refugee problems that also exist. When tens of thousands of people are displaced (up to a million counting internally displaced) then UNOCI peacekeepers cannot be everywhere.

This is putting aside the logistical problem (arguably the bigger one): Gbagbo has decided that he’s going to fight to the last man in the streets of Abidjan. Neither the UN nor France nor anyone else wants to be involved in that. It’s also not something that air power would do a whole lot about – in order for air power to matter, it’d have to be helicopters flying low enough to risk getting shot down themselves.

The French have occupied the airport in Abidjan, and still can’t get people out because Gbagbo thugs are shooting anyone who tries to get there. I’m not sure there’s anything else intervention can accomplish. Gbagbo would rather use kids as human shields than leave, and Ouattara is attacking them because he sees more help isn’t coming.

So there’s no will for the UN to intervene in the way it’d be necessary to have an effect and now both sides don’t really seem to want it. We’re going to have another massacre on our hands shortly.

Written by John Whitehouse

April 4, 2011 at 8:56 am

James Inhofe Exploits Massacre, Doubles Down on Gbagbo Support

with 2 comments

Joining a position that is only supported by Jean-Marie Le Pen and a handful of extreme socialists, James Inhofe is politically exploiting a massacre and doubling down in support of Gbagbo today. Via Gateway Pundit (who, it must be said, spends exactly no time at all verifying any of these claims):

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFR), today pointed to news reports of mass killings by Ouattara forces as more evidence that the United States must change its position on Cote d’Ivoire.

“It is now clear, based on U.N. reports coming from Cote d’Ivoire, that mass killings have occurred at the hands of Alassane Ouattara,” Inhofe said. “This calls into question his legitimacy to lead that country. Ouattara is on a rampage, killing innocent civilians, and he must be stopped before this becomes another Rawanda.

“The United States must call for an immediate ceasefire to prevent Ouattara and his rebel army from committing a mass slaughter of the Ivorians, especially the many youth with sticks and baseball bats, who are protecting Gbagbo at the presidential palace.

“Based on the evidence I have seen, and having spoken with various dignitaries in Africa, I brought the issue of fraudulent elections in Cote d’Ivoire to the attention of Secretary of State Clinton on a couple of occasions spanning the past few months. I have called for the United States to support new elections there, but thus far, these efforts have received very little response or attention. Based on the news that Ouattara has murdered 1,000 people in Duekoue, I hope the U.S. will reconsider its position.

“Senator John Kerry’s plate is full now, but I have called this to his attention, and I know he’s sensitive to the situation. I will be asking him to convene a hearing into the flawed election as well as the atrocities being committed by Ouattara.”

Despite Jim Hoft saying that Inhofe is “following the situation closely” there is no widespread belief that the vote was fraudulent (there were irregularities in some locations, but hell that didn’t stop America in 2000 did it?) Everyone on the political spectrum (except the absolute fringe and Laurent Gbagbo and his supporters) thinks Ouattara won the election. Moreover, there have been months and months to convince anyone otherwise.

Secondly, Inhofe ignore the atrocities allegedly committed by Gbagbo in this massacre. If you followed my liveblogs this weekend on this site, you know one theory is that the massacre was a revenge killing for the massacres done in the area by pro-Gbagbo mercenaries. That absolves no one at all. But it completely destroys Inhofe’s theory that the scary Muslim Ouattara needs to go. I want a full investigation with no impunity. Doubtless everyone seems to agree that Ouattara’s force, the FRCI had a big part of this. But it may not be the whole story and even if it is is (which is certainly possible) then we should punish those responsible and only those responsible. Because…

Third, there are many, many tragedies being instigated by Abidjan now and over the past year or so. Everyone agrees Gbagbo is more responsible for casualties except the one at Duekoue. That includes the activities of this weekend, where Gagbo had kids/young adults (the Young Patriots) called out to surround his palace as human shields. Or when he armed them and sent them into Abidjan to loot and kill anyone they came across. Or when he had his thugs shoot any car en route to the French controlled airport.

This is not an easy situation. This is not a choice of America picking a side and getting it over with. This is about a long, long civil war festering over and both sides being responsible for massacres and humanitarian disasters. Ouattara won the election, that makes him the legitimate leader. Let’s make him take office in a responsible way, not try to take sides and just lpro-long the conflict because we’re scared of a Muslim.

Everything I said in this post was documented from a reliable source in my coverage over the weekend. See the links above.

As always, the best way to contact me is via twitter @existentialfish or leave a comment here. Email is spotty.

Sunday (4/3) Cote D’Ivoire / Ivory Coast Thread

with 5 comments

Circumstances have created a gap in my coverage, but let’s catch up. Photo from here, used under a Creative Commons license.

11:45 EDT: The United Nations evacuated 200 staff members from Cote D’Ivoire after 4 members were seriously injured yesterday while attempting a humanitarian mission. This leaves only UN military personnel on the ground, which are largely French.

–The Young Patriots of Gbagbo called for people to form a human shield around Gbagbo’s Presidential residence (BBC video). Gbagbo continues to call for all his supporters to essentially martyr themselves. With that kind of fervor and nationalism, there’s not much that can be done by anyone. Hopefully the sanctions cut off Gbagbo’s funds, but that’s a long game, not a quick solution.

I would describe the Young Patriots as essentially an ethnic gang that Gbagbo controls directly. I don’t even know how much money plays into it. If money is a small part, then things really are going to get even worse in the capital.

–CNN has a good background primer on the conflict if you haven’t been following it yet. I would like the part about international intervention rephrased if I had my druthers — France and the US are pushing to do marginally more, but short of close, urban, bloody conflict there’s not much to be done — but that’s quibbling. And by the way, no one has the stomach for that kind of interference in Libya either. A nofly zone (or no fly zone plus) for Cote D’Ivoire makes no sense, as French forces are in control of the airport, and the fighting in Abidjan is too close for air support to do that much.

I’d like more UN support regarding refugees, but that’s a different matter altogether (and I could say the same thing regarding about 50 places on the planet).

–France took over the Abidjan airport late yesterday to evacuate foreigners they had been protecting in a camp (although I’ve seen reports previously that the UN was in control of the airport, and UN forces are French forces. So I’ll have to clarify that). France also now has 1,500 troops in the country.

–The story in Duekoue continues to get worse. This story says that Gbagbo forces were burning people alive who were not native to the region. Then the Ouattara forces (FRCI) came along and then made matters worse with massive amounts of revenge killing:

On the outskirts of Duekoue to Niambi, the streets are deserted. The city was almost entirely burned, according to an AFP reporter who saw many charred bodies in the rubble of houses. 150 people sleep in classrooms.

“Here the militia and Liberian mercenaries in Colombo killed 20 people before the arrival of FRCI,” Gao said Kouadio Hubert capita Niambi. “They burned our houses, looted our property and even raped our women,” he says, adding: “So, when FRCI arrived, we had avenged it, they burnt their houses and they killed those that could also kill. ”

He was unable, or unwilling, to say the number of people killed in these acts of vengeance.

The spiral of violence has hit a dozen towns and villages around Duekoue, according to testimony gathered by the AFP.

Diahouin, a small town located 11 km from Duékoué and hence is from one of the commander of pro-Gbagbo militia calling itself the “Rambo”, was no exception.

Kouadio Kouanté, Diahouin resident, said: “before the arrival of FRCI, there were killings on killing. Militiamen and Liberian mercenaries (pro-Gbagbo) attacked the quarters of allogeneic They chased us and we went bush. There have been dead at least 40 “.

Horrifying.

12:15 EDT: Andrew Harding from the BBC is on the ground in Cote D’Voire and is tweeting @hardingbbc. His most recent is from Duekoue: “Bodies everywhere here. 100 more found in past two days. UN soldier cries and holds up four fingers. One for each dead child he has seen.”

12:20 EDT: Sarkozy held meetings today regarding Cote D’Ivoire, but it’s not clear what can be done. Laurent Gbagbo has made the UN and France part of the enemy as far as his supporters are concerned (translated):

Ivorian state television controlled by Gbagbo diffuse violent messages against France. “The Rwandan genocide is being prepared in Côte d’Ivoire by the men of Sarkozy. Ivorian Ivorians go out en masse and occupy the streets, “said a ticker. “The French army occupied the airport Felix Houphouet-Boigny (Abidjan), we are in danger,” said another banner. A government statement said already Saturday that Ouattara “is from a mobile because of the clan that hackers are trying to resurrect Gbagbo RTI to continue their propaganda to destroy Ivory Coast.”

Ban Ki-Moon also called for action against the perpetrators of the massacre in Duekoue.

12:25 EDT: Sec. Clinton and FM Hague made strong statements on Cote D’Ivoire:

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton demanded Sunday that Gbagbo step aside immediately.

“Gbagbo is pushing Cote d’Ivoire into lawlessness,” she said, using the French name for the country. “He must leave now so the conflict may end.”

She also called “on the forces of President Ouattara to respect the rules of war and stop attacks on civilians.”

British Foreign Secretary William Hague Sunday said Britain “renew(ed) our call for Gbagbo to get out, which would stop this violence,” and raised the possibility of International Criminal Court prosecutions stemming from the conflict.

It’s good that they made these statements, but I’m not sure it matters within the country. Perhaps the specter of ICC prosecution will make the FRCI more likely to listen to Ouattara. That’s the best case scenario.

12:30 EDT: A horrifying tweet from BBC Cameraman Christian Parkinson:  “We are in the west of Ivory Coast – bodies everywhere, smell intolerable. Report on tonights late BBC News.”

This Al Jazeera article is a nice summary of the recent events of the past day.

A short report in French about the foreigners that France evacuated. Nationalities were predominantly French but included others, including Lebanese. 167 foreigners were flown to Dakar, Senegal.

12:45 EDT: UNOCI is so far staying with the estimate of 330 killed in Duekoue, but that really is starting to seem unrealistic as more reports come in.

More on Gbagbo inciting violence against UN forces.

12:50 EDT: There was a lull in fighting Sunday in Abidjan, and many residents went looking for food, water, and supplies that may or may not even be there to get:

Residents of Ivory Coast’s main city of Abidjan braved sporadic shooting and ventured out on Sunday to pray, get water and buy food after being trapped in their homes during three days of intense fighting.  Forces loyal to incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo and those of his rival, presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara, have battled in Abidjan neighborhoods but local people took advantage of a relative lull on Sunday.  “Many people went to church to pray to God to stop the war in the country,” said Sylvie Monnet, a resident of Yopougon, a neighbourhood north of central Abidjan.  Some residents had little choice but to venture out. “We have nothing more to eat at home. I have just a single fresh fish at home and after that, I do not know what to do. It is really difficult,” Pamela Somda, a student told Reuters TV.

12:55 EDT: The AP reports that Ouattara forces are gathering in northern Abidjan, and may number in the thousands. (French language liveblog link)

1:05 EDT: An Ouattara minister tells the BBC that only 162 were killed in Duekoue. That seems way too low.

1:15 EDT: Sarkozy’s meeting was attended by Henry Raincourt, Minister of Cooperation, Gerard Longuet, the Defense Minister, Edouard Guillaud, Chief of Defence Staff, chiefs of staff François Fillon and Alain Juppe. It has now adjourned. No announcements are expected.

1:20 EDT: The International Crisis Group called for a ceasefire from both sides. They additionally call for:

  • The UN mission (ONUCI) must deploy all its available formed police units (FPUs) within Abidjan, as well as military troops, and reinforce its presence in the west of the country, particularly in and around Duékoué, Guiglo, Blolequin, Toulepleu and Daloa. Troop contributing countries should also accelerate deployment of soldiers up to their maximum mandated capacity of 11,000 (as opposed to 9,000 on the ground now).
  • The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union should mobilise all international partners, including the EU and the US, to bolster ONUCI’s efforts.
  • Ouattara, the Forces républicaines and its commanders, including Prime Minister Guillaume Soro and their regional sponsors, should take all measures to ensure respect for international humanitarian law. They should understand that international support for Ouattara’s election victory, and his legitimacy, will quickly evaporate if their military campaign becomes responsible for mass atrocity crimes.

There’s no stomach in the international community, as far as I can tell, for that sort of massive ground action. Moreover, given Gbagbo’s rank nativism, those forces would just turn into targets almost immediately.

1:30 EDT: The ambassador from Cote D’Ivoire (Ouattara) to France said that more French intervention in the country would be “normal and natural” but did not give indications of what he would request or what the French are thinking of.

2:05 EDT: 50 fighters from the Young Patriots (Gbagbo group) tried to take the Abidjan airport but the French Foreign Legion repelled the attack. Sarkozy also spoke three times on the phone with Ouattara today. (French link)

2:15 EDT: Sarkozy made an announcement that I’m having some difficulty translating so far, but it seems to be that he wants all French citizens evacuated. But I’m going to keep checking on this.

Fighting is underway in the Oscars district between the SDS and invisible commandos.

–Al Jazeera has published an article about France seizing the airport.

2:25 EDTConcise background on the difference between the UN operation (UNOCI) and the French operation (Unicorn):

In 2002, when civil war broke out in the former French colony, French troops deployed to prevent northern-based rebels marching on President Laurent Gbagbo’s government. A contingent from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) followed soon after.

After a first ceasefire between the government and rebels in 2003, France pushed for a United Nations peacekeeping force to be sent. The United Nations Operation in Cote d’Ivoire (UNOCI) deployed in 2004, taking over from ECOWAS, but France’s Operation Unicorn remained on.

Unicorn’s mandate is now principally to support UNOCI, but it can ‘if need be, ensure the security of French and foreign nationals’ in Ivory Coast, according to the French Defence Ministry.

3:15 EDT: The BBC posted 3 compelling personal stories from people in Abidjan, I’d recommend reading it. France is also voluntarily evacuating people to Togo, though it seems possible that could be a general evacuation shortly of foreign nationals.

3:30 EDT: Ouattara’s government claims that state TV could be run from a mobile van anywhere in Abidjan. This seems odd, given that 1) it would likely have to still broadcast to the station where it’s going out (bypassing the station entirely seems unrealistic) and two, Ouattara’s government makes no claim to actually be in control of the station to begin with. This communique just seems very odd.

4:30 EDT: Gbagbo’s camp rejected the accusation that mercenaries paid by him slaughtered 100 people in the west of the country.

5:45 EDT: We’ve heard about the amassing forces north of Abidjan, and Senam Behaton (@SenamBehaton on Twitter) says that the battle could last days – and if it fails, the city could be the new Beirut.

–The French have no plans to expand their forces beyond the airport, but Gbagbo’s camp nonetheless called them an occupying army without a mandate.

6:00 EDT: It truly feels like the calm before a great storm today:

Only about 20 miles separates the thousands of pro-Ouattara foot soldiers readying for battle from the lagoonside district where the presidential palace and mansion are located.

A resident of the Cocody neighborhood where the mansion is located said around 700 Gbagbo supporters had gathered at the gates of the compound Sunday, after state television, still controlled by the entrenched ruler, called on the population to form a human shield to protect the presidential palace. The resident, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal, said the supporters had been armed with AK-47 assault rifles.

Toussaint Alain, Gbagbo’s representative in Europe, told reporters in Paris that Gbagbo is not giving up.

“President Gbagbo, I have said, is at the residence of the head of state, his usual workplace, and he is managing the crisis with teams that have been put into place to deal with this aggression coming from the outside,” Alain said. “It’s not up to America or France to decide who must lead the Ivory Coast.”

The Malian Embassy is overrun:

At the Malian Embassy, more than 2,000 Malian nationals have taken refuge after Gbagbo’s forces began attacking citizens of neighboring African nations. Mali, like most countries in Africa, has followed the United Nations position, calling on Gbagbo to step down and angering his supporters, who have carried out revenge killings.

“People are sleeping in the basement and in the halls. There’s no more room,” said Nouhou Diallo, a Malian community leader huddled inside. “The water was cut off yesterday. We’re scared to go out but we were so thirsty today that some of us ran across the road to get water from the lagoon.”

And even though the French took the airport, the roads to the airport are far too dangerous for anyone to travel on:

Even if the airport is now secure, however, it was close to impossible to reach.

Troops loyal to the defiant Gbagbo opened fire with automatic weapons on a three-car convoy that attempted to drive through Abidjan on Sunday morning, blasting out the windows and wounding one of the passengers, said driver Ahmed Yoda.

A United Nations armored personnel carrier was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade a day earlier, seriously injuring four peacekeepers.

Given what has happened and what seems about to happen in the coming days or even weeks, this feels more like the eye of the storm.

6:05 EDT: The full statement of Sec. Clinton:

“We are deeply concerned by the dangerous and deteriorating situation in Côte d’Ivoire, including recent reports of gross human rights abuses and potential massacres in the west. The United States calls on former President Laurent Gbagbo to step down immediately. His continuing refusal to cede power to the rightful winner of the November 2010 elections, Alassane Ouattara, has led to open violence in the streets, chaos in Abidjan and throughout the country, and serious human rights violations. Gbagbo is pushing Côte d’Ivoire into lawlessness. The path forward is clear. He must leave now so the conflict may end. Both parties bear responsibility to respect the rights and ensure the safety of the citizens of Côte d’Ivoire.

“We also call on the forces of President Ouattara to respect the rules of war and stop attacks on civilians. President Ouattara’s troops must live up to the ideals and vision articulated by their elected leader. At the same time, we call on the UN peacekeeping mission to aggressively enforce its mandate to protect civilians.

“As President Ouattara takes the reins of government, he must prevent his troops from carrying out reprisals and revenge attacks against their former foes. The people of Côte d’Ivoire await and deserve the peace, security, and prosperity he has promised, and that they have for so long been denied.”

I’m not sure what else the US could say, and I’m not sure what they could do that would actually make the situation better. As I mentioned above, I don’t find the “have western powers solve it now” position very tenable.

6:10 EDT: Gbagbo’s men seem ready to martyr themselves:

“There has been no fighting here. We are awaiting the resumption of hostilities at any time and we are prepared to defend ourselves and maintain control of Abidjan by all means,” a pro-Gbagbo officer at the presidential palace told Reuters.

“Taking Abidjan will be tough, no one should think that we will easily abandon our positions. We are determined to go through to the end,” he said.

A Western diplomat said an attack had been planned on Saturday on the presidential residence by forces backing Ouattara, but it didn’t happen, possibly because of the human shield of Gbagbo’s youth supporters around it.

I still don’t see how this situation gets any better. (I also don’t see how the west could change then; all the west could do is try to negotiate a solution, but that would just incentivize the next person in power from leaving even when election results are clear).

From the same article, France is still talking about evacuating its 12,000 citizens in the country, but I have no idea how – the roads to the airport are deadly; and any other way out (land or sea) is probably even more so.

6:15 EDT: Things I would love to know: what the U.S. Defense Attaché Office for Cote D’Ivoire thinks of the conflict.

6:30 EDT: If you’re looking for good background on the previous French intervention and coup, I’d start here. What it lacks in style it makes up for in content.

–The hospital of Man, 88 km to the north of Duekoue, has received 46 people with bullet injuries in the past week, and is still receiving injured people even though fighting is over withm indicating violence may be ongoing.

The director of the hospital in Man, the largest in western Côte d’Ivoire plagued by political and ethnic violence, said Sunday at the AFP he welcomed in his establishment “46 wounded by gunfire “Since Monday, March 28.

“Since the beginning of hostilities on Monday until today, we received 46 people injured by bullets,” he told AFP William Kouassi, director of the regional hospital (CHR) of Man to a reporter from the AFP’s questions on an influx of wounded in his establishment raised by Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

“As fighting between armed forces on the main western cities have ceased March 31, new wounded continue to arrive at Danane, Man and Bangolo,” MSF said in a statement released Sunday. “The number of new casualties is extremely disturbing and indicates that violence continues in this area,” says the NGO.

“I’m surprised to be told that the hospital of Man is overwhelmed because of the war,” assured Mr. Kouassi. “For cons when hostilities began, the wounded were pouring in Bangolo. I went there, serious cases were referred at the CHR of Man is among them we counted 46 injuries severe Monday until today, “he added.

Developing…

6:40 EDT: One thing the west can do is speed up humanitarian aid as quickly as possible. The situation is dire:

The provision of basic social services has been suspended in many parts of the country. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, over 500,000 people have fled Abidjan in the past few days. In Duékoué and other western towns, people have fled for safety to the surrounding forests, or have sought shelter in sites or with host families already affected by the ongoing crisis.

More than 30,000 people are living in two IDP sites in Duékoué. Numerous corpses are strewn throughout the city’s streets. An estimated 250 displaced children are living in the forests, and soldiers from the peacekeeping mission are trying to reach them. Some 10,000 people who fled the town of Péhé and its surroundings have lost everything they own.

The affected people, mainly women and children, are in dire need of food, non-food items, shelter, health and sanitation services, among other things, which aid agencies have started distributing, while the identification of new sites for displaced people is underway.

“We are facing a serious humanitarian crisis with daunting protection challenges. We are ready to assist–but we cannot do so amidst flying bullets and in the absence of law and order. We call on the parties to observe a cease fire to preserve human lives and allow us to start assisting the civilian population,” Mr. Ngokwey said today in Abidjan.

7:00 EDT: In a sign that the battle is not at an end but rather in the middle somewhere, the chief General for Gbagbo’s army left asylum at the South African embassy and is back in charge of the army:

Ivory Coast army chief General Philippe Mangou has left the residence of the South African ambassador in Abidjan and rejoined forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo, a military source told Reuters on Sunday.

Mangou had sought refuge with his family at the residence Wednesday night as forces backing presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara seized large swathes of the country in their push to unseat Gbagbo who has refused to cede power.

“General Mangou come back to take up his duties at the head of the army today,” the source close to Gbagbo’s forces told Reuters.

It’s still unclear how Gbagbo can pay his side or how long their supplies will hold out for.

7:15 EDT: This Al Jazeera video gets at how dangerous it is, including for the press.

7:25 EDT: I’ve mentioned Man, but Doctors without Borders says freshly injured are still arriving in hospitals in Danane and Bangolo. If nothing else, it’s a reminder that given the gravity of the situation, we still know very little about the extent of harm done.

7:50 EDT: A compelling summary of the challenges presented by Penelope Chester at UN Dispatch:

A key battle for Abidjan has begun, and it’s very difficult to predict how exactly this will end. If history is any guide, we can look at how the second Liberian civil war came to an end in 2003: a protracted siege of Monrovia by rebel forces, ongoing peace negotiations in Ghana and support (both military and political, by the end) of the U.S. and the physical removal of Charles Taylor were responsible for ending the conflict.

The siege of Abidjan, the country’s seat of power (even though Abidjan is not the official capital of Côte d’Ivoire, it is the political and economic heart of the nation) by pro-Ouattara forces moves this crisis from conflict to civil war. The longer the siege lasts, the more the population will suffer and the worst the humanitarian consequences. As we noted here recently, the human rights situation in Abidjan is perilous.

What is happening now in Côte d’Ivoire is the result of unsuccessful diplomacy efforts and negotiations led by regional organizations ECOWAS and the African Union, which, after the other, failed to find solutions. It’s also a failure of the broader international community. The United Nations Security Council, France, the U.S, the European Union have all been “condemning” the violence, and repeatedly asked Ggabgo to step down. International organizations – including the West African Central Bank – cut funding. In spite of all these efforts, the conflict has escalated out of control. Tens of thousands of lives are at risk, and we really have no idea just how bad this conflict will get before it gets better.

This keeps coming down to the fact that Gbagbo is willing to do more to stay in power (like using the Young Patriots as human shields) that no one else yet is willing to top. (And this is putting aside the atrocities almost certainly committed by forces loyal to Ouattara). When a despot is willing to use children/young adults as human shields and because of the nativism that he spouts those people are willing to do so, that should be called for the tyranny it is.

8:00 EDT: Senam Beheton points out that Mangou’s move to leave asylum is suicidal for his family.

8:20 EDT: Why the far right in America and France loves Gbagbo: he’s a pioneer of their version of Christianity, nativism, and economic conservatism. Hell, there’s even their version of birtherism. This translation from French is rough, but telling:

It’s been over ten years that criminals in the Ivory Coast prepare a genocide against the peoples of North and against “foreigners”. The origins of this crisis, a concept that crystallized the hatred of some of the Ivorian political class against an individual which is to be prevented at all costs by all political and legal means, to power politics. According to proponents of the concept of it Would there Ivorian strain of centuries, the true Ivorian blood pure, preferably Christian faith and the Ivorian fact, come to enjoy the economic boom of Côte d’Ivoire. In addition, they arrogate to themselves the rights to political hegemony with the claim to govern the nation Ivory Coast. The concept of “ivoirité was thus lethal weapon to disqualify Alassane Ouattara from any claim to the nomination a few elections whatsoever in Côte d’Ivoire.

In 1995 he was thus prevented from running for the presidency. In July 2000, a Constitution was adopted to measure him against an article which stipulates that any presidential candidate must be Ivorian by birth and born of Ivorian-born parents. This article was explicitly candidacy of Alassane Ouattara, then presented as Burkina Faso.

The concept of Ivoirite was gradually extended to all those who wear Yankee-sounding names: Ouattara, Bamba, Coulibaly, Soro, Konate. Etc.. A real witch hunt was organized against these “foreigners” to hegemonic pretensions. The harassment, humiliation, or even systematic physical violence were the daily lot of these “foreigners”. At military checkpoints or police, people are rackettées northerners, their identity cards torn and tattered. Denied their Ivorian identity.

[. . .]

In this position, [Gbagbo] presents himself as a victim of the global capitalist and imperialist forces arrayed against a president who claims a desire for independence. It is hoped the alliance and patriotic groups and progressive Africa. Moreover, riding the trend of the moment, he can expect the support of evangelical Christians-cons Alassane Ouattara, presented as a dangerous Islamist, as an outgrowth tropicalized Al Qaeda.

Inhofe and Le Pen are somewhere nodding their heads off. The rest of the article isn’t as interesting, as it tries to test Gbagbo’s faith.

8:45 EDT: Graphic video is emerging of the massacre in Duekoue. This is from the BBC (reporter and cameraman I mentioned above). Warning, it’s graphic.

9:05 EDT: Rare good news from Cote D’Ivoire. Caritas, the charity that reported that 1,000 had been massacred, had a priest abducted two days ago. That priest now has been released:

The director of Caritas in Abidjan, Father Richard Kissi, has been released unharmed in the Ivory Coast after being kidnapped by an armed group two days earlier, said a statement on the Caritas Internationalis website.

“Fr Richard Kissi was released today. He is doing well and has already reached the parish of Notre-Dame de Treichville where he is based,” said Jean Djoman, Director of Human Development at Caritas Côte d’Ivoire.

Fr Richard Kissi had been kidnapped on March 29 while he was heading to Anyama, a suburb of Abidjan, to evacuate seminarians at the “Grand Séminaire” after violent clashes had taken place in the area.

“We do not have any further elements on the circumstances and the motives for his kidnapping yet,” said Mr. Djoman.

That is good news.

9:15 EDT: Ouattara’s PM today reiterated the call for prosecutions of anyone who committed war crimes:

Investigations of reported massacres in western Côte d’Ivoire will be conducted and those responsible will be punished, said Sunday evening Guillaume Soro, Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara, Gbagbo recognized by the international community.

“The Ivorian government’s position is clear: there is no impunity. We will investigate and those who are responsible – because we want a rule of law – will be punished,” he said in an interview broadcast by the international francophone television channel TV5MONDE.

In the heat of a civil war, I don’t look for Ouattara or allies to throw himself or his entire army under the bus. That’s unrealistic. But promising serious investigations and prosecutions is good, it’s necessary, and he should follow through on it. And the international community should absolutely threaten ICC involvement if he does not.

9:30 EDT: Nigeria has played a key role in discussions at the Security Council regarding Cote D’Ivoire. ECOWAS is a regional group, but essentially is dominated by Nigeria.

10:00 EDT: The BBC has put up pictures from Cote D’Ivoire.

10:30 EDT: Is the real problem in Cote D’Ivoire France?

Laurent Gbagbo started life as a youth activist who openly challenged the venerable Old Fox of Yamoussoukro before it was fashionable to do so. He and his wife Simone Ehivet Gbagbo, both of them university academics, were often in and out of prison. Gbagbo’s credentials in democratic struggle are unassailable. However, having been in power since 2000, he has outlived his relevance. He has disappointed his followers by preserving France’s monopolistic privileges over such public utilities as water, electricity, telecoms, roads and oil. His record in economic management has been, quite frankly, weak.

As for Ouattara, a large section of Ivoirien youth view him as the candidate of the French, Burkinabes, Malians and Senegalese; and of the World Bank and IMF, where he once served in the exalted position of Deputy Managing Director.

He is no doubt a competent technocrat. His problem is his backers; comprising a ragtag of mercenaries that make up the ‘forces nouvelles’ and shadowy reptilian types from places as wide apart as Ukraine, Lebanon and Iran. Ivoiriens will not forget in a hurry that it is these people that unleashed a civil war on their country.

At the root of this tragedy is the economic divide between the north and the south. There is also the brooding figure of Blaise Compaore across the border. Over 2 million Burkinabe migrant workers have provided the labour in the cocoa and coffee plantations which have sustained the Ivoirien economy. He could not be expected to ignore their fate. Félix Houphouët-Boigny failed to bequeath a legacy on which an orderly constitutional order could be established.

There is also the stranglehold of France-Afrique which has made nonsense of Ivoirien sovereignty for all these years. Some 85 per cent of the cash flow of the country goes through the BCEAO, the regional central bank of the French-backed West African Economic Community, to the French Treasury which has veto powers over how the Francophone countries can spend their own money. The French have arrogated to themselves the right of first refusal for public works contracts and the most lucrative raw materials concessions.

If Ouattara manages to actuate his internationally acquired prize, he would still have to address these realties, including the nitty-gritty of governing his own people. Ahead is not the bliss of summer, but a night of icy darkness and toil, to echo Max Weber.

I don’t have the ability to verify all the claims in there, so I’ll just pass it along with that warning. But while I’ve been focusing on the short run, the long run for Cote D’Ivoire is hardly roses; these are real problems only made harder by serious internal discord.

12:00 EDT: Last update today. Ouattara’s PM Guillaume Soro said the situation was ripe for a quick attack in Abidjan. We’ll see, I guess. The sooner this is over, the better, but the only path I see to a quick end involves either lots of blood or a sudden change of heart by someone involved.