Ivory Coast's Government Battles Looters, Calls on Troops to Rejoin Units

Ivory Coast’s new government called on all soldiers and police to rejoin their units as it struggles to stem looting in the commercial capital, Abidjan, following a civil war that culminated in a 10-day battle for the city.

“Unit commanders and heads of services must move immediately for the rapid restoration of public order,” Prime Minister Guillaume Soro said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. “The resumption of economic and social activities and the opening of administration services depend on this.”

The Republican Forces that support President-elect Alassane Ouattara are patrolling the streets of Abidjan following reports of looting by their own soldiers, thieves and militias loyal to previous leader Laurent Gbagbo. United Nations’ peacekeepers and French soldiers are also attempting to impose order.

Many shops and homes were plundered during the battle for Abidjan that ended with Gbagbo’s capture in a bunker below his home in the Cocody neighborhood of the city on April 11. Most of the regular army and police officers supported Gbagbo in the fighting.

“We are currently trying to get some of our rogue elements under control,” Meite Sindou, spokesman for Soro, said by phone yesterday, referring to the Republican Forces. “The looting has to stop.”

‘Ghost Villages’

Stability in the world’s largest cocoa producer would mean a return to exports of the chocolate ingredient. Moeller-Maersk A/S, the world’s largest container shipping line, says one of its vessels is likely to arrive in Abidjan next week.

Cocoa for May delivery rose $70, or 2.3 percent, to $3,140 per metric ton at 11 a.m. in New York today.

The UN must protect “tens of thousands” of displaced people throughout the country, said Amnesty International in an e-mailed statement on April 12.

Villages have been burned and looted in the western part of the country where people are “hiding in the bush in life- threatening conditions and without any proper food or sanitation,” said Gaetan Mootoo, U.K.-based Amnesty’s Ivory Coast researcher. “We have seen ghost villages with nearly no civilians.”

Gbagbo will face charges on a national and international level, Ouattara said in a televised speech yesterday. He also pledged to investigate killings committed during the conflict.

Financial Help

Ivory Coast requires $300 million in emergency aid, the UN’s emergency relief coordinator, Valerie Amos, said yesterday in New York. “We need to act now,” she said. “The humanitarian situation remains deeply troubling.”

World Bank President Robert Zoellick told a briefing in Washington the lender could reactivate loans to the Ivory Coast within a couple of weeks, if the security situation allowed it.

The Tunis-based African Development Bank said in an e- mailed statement that its personnel and World Bank representatives will meet soon with senior officials from Ivory Coast to discuss “immediate next steps.”

Looters ransacked shops on the main commercial street of Rue des Jardins in the Deux Plateaux neighborhood yesterday and were seen carrying the stolen goods, including sofas and a fake Christmas tree, on their heads and in wheelbarrows.

“They’ve tried to enter into a building because a guy that supported Gbagbo is living there,” said resident Moussa Traore. “For them, it’s like a revenge.”

In the Cocody area, three men were shot by a Republican Forces patrol at a bakery, according to Salif Attai, who witnessed the incident and said the trio stole a bag he was carrying. The body of one of the men that was left by the roadside was wearing a military uniform.

To contact the reporter on this story: Pauline Bax and Olivier Monnier at Abidjan via Accra at ebowers1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net.

Bloomberg reserves the right to remove comments but is under no obligation to do so, or to explain individual moderation decisions.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.