Ivorian crisis sparks protests
Demonstrators block roads, burn tyres to protest over the absence of elections.
Last Modified: 17 Feb 2010 21:01 GMT

Some protesters set fire to a bus in the main city of Abidjan [AFP]

At least 1,000 protesters have marched through the central towns of the Ivory Coast in protest against Laurent Gbagbo, the president, for dissolving the government and electoral commission.

Wednesday's protests were in response to the opposition's call for big street rallies, raising the spectre of violence in the world's top cocoa grower.

"We in the opposition are doing everything we can to show that we do not agree with this," Alphonse Djedje Madi, the secretary-general of the opposition coalition, said.

"Nobody can really tell when we can go to the elections now, and that is a serious threat to peace in Cote D'Ivoire," he said.

In the main city of Abidjan, protesters seized and set fire to a bus belonging to a national transport company.

"There was a vandal amongst the bus passengers who sprayed the bus with flammable liquid," Thomas Koffi, the transport company manager, said.

Other protests in East Abengourou forced the closure of several cocoa warehouses, while some 500 protesters blocked the road between the capital Yamoussoukro and Bouake, the main city of the rebel-held north, according to eyewitnesses.

Political uncertainty

Blaise Compaore, the president of Burkina Faso, the mediator in Ivory Coast's crisis, has publicly called on President Gbagbo to quickly re-launch stalled election preparations.

"[The facilitator would like] to encourage president Laurent Gbagbo to act quickly to relaunch the electoral process to preserve progress made so far and ... and ensure it is completed," Compaore said in a statement issued in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso.

The country is currently without a government, or an electoral body, following the controversial decision by Gbagbo to dissolve the two.

The opposition says they will not recognise the new government or a new electoral body.

Opposition supporters accused the ruling party of trying to disqualify voters who are not allied with Gbagbo.

A spokeswoman for the opposition RDR party said Gbagbo's dissolution of the government was a step toward dictatorship.

"We cannot let this dictatorship establish itself," Anne Ouloto said.

The independent PIT party, allied with neither the opposition nor the president, also condemned the move.

"It runs in the face of all the peace accords we've signed since 2004," Francois Kouablan, the party secretary-general, said.

At the heart of the impasse delaying a presidential vote is the question of who is really Ivorian.

Guillaume Soro, ex-rebel leader and current prime minister, says he is meeting with all parties to start a new government and to organise presidential elections as soon as possible.

Before its brief civil war, Ivory Coast was one of Africa's economic stars boasting a modern, cosmopolitan capital which lured tens of thousands of immigrants from poorer neighboring nations.

Al Jazeera and agencies
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