Ivorian forces disperse gatherings, AU due to meet


Ivorian security forces fired automatic weapons on Sunday to disperse all gatherings in an Abidjan neighbourhood, as African leaders were due to meet to come up with a solution for the post-election stand-off.

There were no organised protests, but security forces fired bursts of live rounds to prevent groups from forming, witnesses said from Abobo, a stronghold for Alassane Ouattara, who is widely recognised as winner of a November 28 election.

Incumbent Laurent Gbagbo’s refusal to cede power has paralysed the world’s top cocoa grower, with both men forming parallel governments but the economy grinding to a halt due to sanctions and intermittent violence that has killed about 300, Reuters reports.

At least two people were killed on Saturday when pro-Gbagbo security forces fired live rounds and teargas at protesters, witnesses said.
“There was shooting again this morning. People are running back to their houses,” said Idrissa Diarrassouba, an Abobo resident.

There were no immediate reports of casualties and the shooting stopped shortly afterwards.

Five African leaders mandated by the African Union to find a binding solution to the crisis are due to meet in Mauritania on Sunday before taking their propositions to the rival camps in Ivory Coast on Monday.

Both sides deeply entrenched in their positions and previous mediation missions have left empty-handed so expectations that the leaders of South Africa, Mauritania, Chad, Burkina Faso and Chad will achieve a breakthrough are low.

Although the Ivorian economy is collapsing as cocoa exports dry up and banks close, Gbagbo has defied international recognition of Ouattara and sanctions imposed his clan, and retains the support of the military, for now.

Saturday’s attempts to protest by Ouattara supporters were the first since his camp said Ivorians should not expect anything from African diplomacy but instead launch an Egypt-styled revolution to force Gbagbo from power.

The poll last year was due to draw an end to a decade of division and economic stagnation sparked by a 2002-3 war, which split the nation in two.

Instead, the rifts between the rebel-controlled north and Gbagbo-dominated south have been exacerbated.