Fight for Ivory Coast's Abidjan Enters Fifth Day, Food Supplies Run Short
The fight for Abidjan, the commercial capital of Ivory Coast, continued for a fifth day with few residents daring to go outdoors and food supplies in the city of four million beginning to run short.
Heavy gunfire and loud explosions were heard from the direction of the Plateau neighborhood near the presidential palace about 6 a.m. this morning. Gunfire was also heard in Cocody, where Gbagbo has a house, Agence France-Presse said, citing people it didn’t identify.
Forces loyal to President-elect Alassane Ouattara have captured much of the city since the start of their attack on March 31, while fighting continues around the presidential palace and at some army bases, residents said. The whereabouts of incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo are unknown.
“I haven’t been able to go out of my flat since Thursday,” Laurent Kone, a resident of the Blockhaus area, said by phone late yesterday. “I have almost nothing to eat at home anymore. I’m hungry. All the shops on my street are closed.”
A month ago, Ouattara’s militia, known as the Republican Forces, started to move south from their bases in the north of the country, the world’s biggest cocoa producer. They swept through much of the country in the past 10 days as Gbagbo’s troops offered little resistance.
Guillaume Soro, prime minister in Ouattara’s administration, said the Republican Forces were planning a rapid offensive to take the rest of Abidjan.
After surrounding the city, “the situation is now mature enough” to launch the final offensive, he said on Ouattara’s television station.
Cocoa prices in rose for a second day, gaining 1.2 percent to $3,048 a metric ton at 12:07 p.m. in Abidjan as the crisis held up exports from the world’s largest producer of the chocolate ingredient.
Ivory Coast’s defaulted 2032 Eurobonds fell for the first day in a week, declining 1.2 percent to 48.300 cents on the dollar as of 12:13 p.m. local time, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Troops from France, the former colonial power, have taken control of the international airport, while United Nations peacekeepers are trying to keep some order in the city, where many shops were looted in recent days and militias from both sides are on the streets.
“I’ve seen small groups of young guys wearing jeans and T- shirts carrying Kalashnikovs,” said Didier Amani, who lives near the airport. “They drive around in cars without license plates or in taxis. I can’t tell if they are pro-Gbagbo or pro- Ouattara. It’s unsettling.”
Three people have been killed by stray bullets at the PISAM hospital in Cocody since the fighting started, said Gilles Tiesso, who has been stuck at the hospital since April 1 when his wife gave birth.
Some supermarkets reopened today, with people stocking up on everything they could find.
Prices have soared for the few food items still available, with bread rising to 250 CFA francs (54 cents) from 150, said Marie-Laure Djiboly, another resident of the city.
“I saw a group of people arguing over bread in front of a bakery,” she said by phone late yesterday.
The United Nations, the U.S., the African Union and the U.K. are calling on Gbagbo, 65, to hand power over to Ouattara, 69, whom they recognize as the winner of the nation’s first election in a decade on Nov. 28. Gbagbo says there was widespread voter fraud and he won.
Phillippe Mangou, the head of Gbagbo’s army who last week took refuge in the residence of the South African ambassador, has left the envoy’s house, Clayson Monyela, a spokesman for South Africa’s foreign ministry, said in an interview.
As the situation deteriorated, Singapore’s GMG Global Ltd. suspended operations at its rubber facilities, which account for 12 percent of exports from Africa’s largest producer of the commodity, the company said in a statement on its website.
A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/S, the world’s largest container shipping line, would be able to send ships to Ivory Coast “immediately” if the European Union were to lift sanctions against the country, Sonny Dahl, director of West Africa services at the company said in an e-mailed response to questions.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said on April 2 that at least 800 people were killed in “inter-communal violence” in the western town of Duekoue after it was captured by the Republican Forces. Aid groups didn’t say who was responsible for the deaths.
Ouattara’s Justice Ministry denied the involvement of their forces in the massacre and called for an international investigation.
“The government reiterates its appeal to human-rights organizations to come and investigate in Ivory Coast, so that we may know the truth about the perpetrators of massive violations of human rights,” the ministry said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. is “deeply concerned by the dangerous and deteriorating situation in Cote d’Ivoire, including recent reports of gross human rights abuses and potential massacres in the west,” according to an e- mailed statement dated April 1. “Gbagbo is pushing Cote d’Ivoire into lawlessness,” Clinton said.
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