French citizens told to leave Ivory Coast as UN warns of civil war

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Map highlighting location of the Ivory Coast.
Image: Vardion.

The French government has urged its citizens to leave the Ivory Coast (Côte d'Ivoire) as the United Nations (U.N.) warned that the country was heading towards a civil war. According to the U.N., there has been an increase in the use of intimidation methods by elements of the national security forces loyal to incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo.

"The international community must act and act decisively. I emphasize again today what I have said earlier: any attempt to starve the United Nations mission into submission will not be tolerated. Any attack on the United Nations and its staff must be considered an attack on the international community," said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a statement. He added that the techniques of intimidation include "abductions and killings and the propagation of hate speech through the state broadcasting corporation."

Meanwhile, the French government urged its citizens to leave the country. "We ask those who can, to leave Ivory Coast temporarily until the situation normalises," said Francois Baroin, a government spokesperson.

On Saturday, Gbagbo ordered the U.N. and French peacekeepers to leave the country saying, "The government demands the departure of the UNOCI and LICORNE [French] forces in Ivory Coast and is opposed to any renewal of their mandate." Gbagbo claimed victory in the nation's elections on November 28. Alassane Ouattara won the presidential run-off election on December 3 according to the country's electoral commission. However, the Constitutional Council has contested the announcement. The French government and the U.N. have also rejected the election results. Gbagbo offered for several entities to investigate the election results, which was rejected by Ouattara who said "we've finished with these games."

"I am ... ready to welcome a committee... headed by the African Union, involving ECOWAS, the Arab League, the United Nations, United States, the European Union, Russia and China, which will have permission to analyse objectively the facts of the electoral process solve this crisis peacefully," Gbagbo said in a statement.

The U.N. said it has no plans to leave the country saying, "the president-elect is Ouattara and he hasn't asked us to leave" and that they intend to "fulfill its mandate and will continue to monitor and document any human rights violations, incitement to hatred and violence, or attacks on U.N. peacekeepers."

Also on Saturday, a U.N. convoy and the mission headquarters in Abidjan was attacked by masked gunmen in military uniforms. According to the mission, a civilian vehicle with six men inside approached the convoy. When the convoy approached the compound's entrance the gunmen opened fire. No one was injured in the attack. Shots were fired back at the gunmen, but none were hit.