Incumbent Cote d’Ivoire president tells UN peacekeepers to leave the country after ‘interference’ in internal affairs.
|Cote d’Ivoire’s disputed election has ramped up tensions in the West African nation [Reuters]|
Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary-general, has said UN peacekeepers will remain in Cote d’Ivoire, despite demands by Laurent Gbagbo, the incumbent president, that international forces leave the country.
Farhan Haq, Ban’s spokesman, on Saturday relayed the UN chief’s determination that the UN’s force would “fulfill its mandate” in the country, where tensions have risen following last month’s disputed presidential election.
“The secretary-general is aware of statements by Mr Gbagbo’s spokesperson calling for the withdrawal of the UN Operation in Cote d’Ivoire [UNOCI],” Haq said in a statement.
“UNOCI will fulfill its mandate and will continue to monitor and document any human rights violations, incitement to hatred and violence, or attacks on UN peacekeepers.”
The UN has 10,000 soldiers and police in the country following the 2002-03 civil war, and former colonial power France’s LICORNE force supports the UN mission in the country.
Ban has said that Gbagbo must step down and hand power to Alassane Ouattara, the opposition leader who the UN says won Ivory Coast’s November 28 presidential election.
The election precipitated a crisis with both Ouattara and Gbagbo claiming victory. Both men set up cabinets and Ouattara is running his parallel government from a hotel in Abidjan.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Patrick Achi, a spokesman for Ouattara, said that Gbagbo had no right to ask the UN to leave.
“The population is the hostage of someone who lost the election,” Achi added.
Earlier on Saturday, masked men in military uniforms fired on a UN base after following guards back from a patrol, according to a UN statement.
There were no casualties after the attack.
Gbagbo’s move to eject UN and French peacekeepers comes just a day after Raila Odinga, the Kenyan prime minister, called on African nations to oust the Ivorian president by force if necessary.
“Mr Gbagbo must be forced even if it means using military means to get rid of him because now he is just relying on military power, not the people’s power, to intimidate the people,” Odinga told a news conference in Nairobi on Friday.
“The African Union should develop teeth.”
The United States has said it is ready to impose travel sanctions on Gbagbo, his inner circle and their families within days, while at least one African nation is said to have offered him exile.
But Al Jazeera’s Ama Boateng, reporting from Abidjan, said that Gbagbo has “heard these threats before”.
“We’ve heard them from the African Union, we’ve heard them from the United Nations, we’ve heard them from pretty much every international voice,” Boateng said. “And so far, that has had very, very little effect.”
A spokesman for Gbagbo told the Reuters news agency that the presidential claimant would not step down after being handed the runoff victory after the constitutional council annulled hundreds of thousands of votes in pro-Ouattara areas.
The election has been followed by violent protests in Abidjan and other cities. Ouattara’s camp said 30 people died in clashes on Thursday while Gbagbo’s spokeswoman said 20 died, including 10 police officers killed by protesters.