UN must do more to protect Ivorian civilians: Ouattara camp

Strongman Laurent Gbagbo has refused to step down since November elections.

Abidjan: A spokesman for Ivory Coast`s internationally recognised President Alassane Ouattara on Sunday urged the UN to take stronger action to protect civilians caught up in political violence.

"The UN must take action to free the Ivory Coast and give meaning to the (UN) certification of the elections. President Ouattara cannot govern. He must be given the means to govern," his spokeswoman Anne Ouloto told a news agency.

Strongman Laurent Gbagbo, who has refused to step down since November elections, "is trying to set a trap for President Ouattara, that of civil war. But President Ouattara does not want to fall into that trap," Ouloto said.

She said the 10,000-strong UN mission in the country known as UNOCI "has the human and logistical capacity to protect civilians. We ask the UN to move fast, the people are in danger. It must take its responsibilities."

"We can`t understand that the international community has mobilised for Libya and can`t take firm decisions on the Ivory Coast. It must be done immediately, it is a question of life or death," she added.

Ouattara has been recognised by the United Nations and most of the international community as the rightful winner of the disputed presidential election on November 28.

Gbagbo has refused to cede power while Ouattara runs his government from the Golf Hotel in Abidjan where he has been holed up, barricaded by Gbagbo`s forces and protected by UN peacekeepers, since mid-December.

Troops loyal to Gbagbo have clashed violently with fighters backing Ouattara for several weeks, and the escalating violence has raised fears of civil war in the country. The United Nations estimates some 440 people have been killed in the stand-off.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe on Saturday said the UN mission "must play its role more effectively," and that its mandate permitted the use of force to protect civilians.

Outtara`s spokeswoman also responded strongly to a call by Gbagbo`s youth minister to his young supporters urging them to enlist in his armed forces to "free Ivory Coast from these bandits."

Charles Ble Goude, leader of Gbagbo`s most fervent supporters the "Young Patriots," whipped a crowd of several thousand into a frenzy with his call to arms on Saturday.

"It is a sign that Laurent Gbagbo is desperate," Ouloto said. "He is making distress calls, it is evident the army has dropped him, has dissociated itself from his barbaric acts."

She added: "Arming youths is suicidal, it is leading young people to the slaughterhouse."

Ouattara`s camp, for its part, has urged youths "to mobilise against civil war," she said.

Bureau Report

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