France Seeks UN Steps to End Ivory Coast Unrest Amid Attacks on Civilians
France is seeking increased United Nations pressure on Ivory Coast’s incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo to give up his fight for the presidency, and stronger military force to halt his attacks on civilians, diplomats said.
France has called for a Security Council meeting tomorrow on the conflict and is circulating a draft resolution that would tell UN peacekeepers to use “all necessary measures, including by seizing heavy weapons,” to protect civilians, according to diplomats who spoke on condition of not being identified because the text hasn’t been made public.
Leaders of the Economic Community of West African States asked the UN today to give peacekeepers more power to protect civilians from armed attacks, the group said in a statement handed to reporters in Abuja, Nigeria. The UN has 9,000 soldiers and civilian police in Ivory Coast who have a mandate to protect civilians.
The peacekeeping mission reported on March 22 that security forces loyal to Gbagbo are making repairs to an attack helicopter and mounting rocket launchers on it.
“The mission strongly warns this camp that it will not tolerate any attempt to use these weapons,” the UN said in a statement, without providing further details.
Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa producer, has been divided between a government-controlled south and a rebel-held north since a 2002 uprising of army soldiers. The insurgents back Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognized winner over Gbagbo of the Nov. 28 presidential election. Gbagbo, who has led the West African nation for the past decade, refuses to cede power, alleging voter fraud in parts of the north.
The French draft resolution would endorse the African Union’s backing for Ouattara and demand that Gbagbo give up his effort to retain the presidency, according to the diplomats. They said it also would impose a travel ban and asset freeze on Gbagbo, his wife and top aides, and send results of a pending UN inquiry into human rights abuses to the International Criminal Court.
The UN said today that 462 people have been killed since mid-December in post-election violence. The mission also said large numbers of civilians are leaving Abobo, Williamsville, Yopougon and other parts of the commercial capital Abidjan because of fighting and of lack of food and medication.
Presidents and other representatives of Ecowas said the “time has come to enforce the decisions” to recognize Ouattara as president and use “legitimate force” to remove Gbagbo from office. Ecowas urged that UN peacekeepers to be empowered “to use all necessary means to protect life and property and facilitate the immediate transfer of power” to Ouattara. More “stringent” sanctions should be imposed on Gbagbo and his associates, the group’s statement said.
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