Cote d’Ivoire braces for protests

Reports of tear gas fired at protesters as internationally recognised vote winner prepares to seize control of state TV.

UN peacekeepers have surrounded the hotel where Outtara is staying, saying they will protect him [Al Jazeera]

Ivorian forces have fired tear gas at protesters gathered in the north of the country to call for Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognised winner of last month’s presidential election, to take office, reports say.

Thousands of protesters attempted to march to the town of Tiebissou on Tuesday when they were halted at a government checkpoint, the Reuters news agency reported.

The protest came after Ouattara’s party announced he and his supporters would march on state institutions in a bid to take control. It also came as the European Union agreed on sanctions against Laurent Gbagbo, who took the oath of office despite losing the election to Ouattara.

Ouattara’s prime minister Guillaume Soro said his camp would go to state television headquarters on Thursday to install their newly appointed station chief.

Soro, who was prime minister under Gbagbo but has since resigned in protest, said they would also hold a cabinet meeting at the prime minister’s office on Friday.

Both state television and the government buildings in the former Ivory Coast are currently occupied by officials loyal to Gbagbo and are heavily guarded by Gbagbo’s forces.

Soro did not say what the group would do if they met resistance, nor if New Forces rebels from the north of the country who are loyal to Ouattara would participate in the planned events.

“There is nothing to negotiate,” Soro said when asked if he had informed Gbagbo of his plans.

‘Duty to do something’

Al Jazeera’s Yvonne Ndege, reporting from Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire’s largest city, quoted Ouattara’s supporters as saying that as the democratically elected government they “had a duty to do something”.

“Basically what they’ve said is that … they will proceed to the offices of IRTI – that’s the office of the state televison company – and that they’ll remove the management and put their own management in place,” she said.

“Now getting control of state media is key to Ouattara and his government taking power because at the moment Gbagbo controls the media, and many Ivorians do not even know that there’s been this election dispute. Clearly it’s important for them to get this message across to the Ivorian people that they won the election and are taking power.”

There are fears that the move may lead to violence, our correspondent said, but added that the UN – which has peacekeepers in the country – was aware of the situation and that there would be “some kind of discussion about how to avert” the marches.

A tense standoff continues after Gbagbo claimed victory, rebuffing calls from the US, the EU, former colonial ruler France and the African Union (EU) to step down.

The United Nations has recognised Ouattara, who took oath of office only hours after the incumbent was sworn in. Both men have set up separate governments in the vote’s chaotic aftermath.

Diplomats from the 27-member EU will draw up a list of officials to be targeted by the restrictions.

IMF threat

Cote d’Ivoire, the world’s top cocoa producer, has been in turmoil since last month’s poll, which was meant to reunify the country after a 2002-03 civil war.

The International Monetary Fund has said it will not co-operate in the aid programme if the existing Cote d’Ivoire government is not recognised by the UN.

Gbagbo retains control of the armed forces and has rejected criticism as foreign meddling.

He has been in power since winning a disputed election in 2000, when thousands of his supporters took to the streets to help oust general Robert Guei, a military coup leader, who was accused of trying to rig the vote.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies


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