Abidjan: Laurent Gbagbo`s isolated Ivory
Coast regime was locked in a tense stand-off with the
international community as the United Nations complained of
"massive" human rights abuses.
Gbagbo has rejected demands he cede power to his rival
Alassane Ouattara, and has instead ordered UN peacekeepers to
leave the country, stirring fears the fragile West African
state might plunge back into chaos.
The United Nations has refused the order to stand down
its 10,000-strong UNOCI force, and its chief human rights
official has accused Gbagbo`s security forces of involvement
in dozens of alleged kidnappings and murders.
Former colonial power France, the United States, European
Union and Canada have threatened sanctions, while the African
Union and Ivory Coast`s West African neighbours in the ECOWAS
bloc have demanded Gbagbo step down.
UN peacekeepers continue to patrol in the restive port
city of Abidjan, Ivory Coast`s sprawling commercial capital,
supported by France`s 900-strong Licorne, a holdover from
Paris` formerly much larger military presence.
Both Gbagbo and Ouattara claim to have won last month`s
election, and both have had themselves declared president, but
the incumbent has so far retained control of the official
armed forces and of Abidjan`s ministry buildings.
Ouattara has been recognised as president by the
international community, and is supported by the former rebel
movement that controls Ivory Coast north of the 2003 ceasefire
line that divides the country into two armed camps.
But in the south, home to the government and the cocoa
ports that dominate Ivory Coast`s economy, his movements are
limited to the grounds of the Golf Hotel, a luxury waterfront
resort in Abidjan protected by UN "blue helmets".
Meanwhile, in the poor suburbs of the city, there are
reports of gangs in uniform raiding houses at night and
"disappearing" suspected Ouattara backers.
On Sunday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi
Pillay expressed concern about "the growing evidence of
massive violations of human rights" in the restive West
African country since Thursday.
"In the past three days there has been more than 50
people killed, and over 200 injured," she said in a statement
issued in Geneva, vowing "to ensure that perpetrators are held
accountable for their actions."
She said witnesses blamed "armed individuals in military
uniform accompanied by elements of the Defence and Security
Forces or militia groups". Ivory Coast`s official "Defence and
Security Forces" back Gbagbo`s rule.