Sunday, October 30, 2005

IVORY COAST TURMOIL


Shots fired at Gbagbo protesters.

Protesters held a rally at a sports stadium before the trouble. Riot police in Ivory Coast have fired warning shots and used tear gas to disperse hundreds of opposition protesters in the main city of Abidjan. Opposition militants were threatening to remove President Laurent Gbagbo after his failure to step down. His five-year mandate was supposed to end on Sunday. But scheduled elections have been postponed and the UN decided to keep him in power for another year.
The country has been in turmoil since rebels seized the north in 2002. More than 10,000 French and UN troops patrol a barrier zone between the northern rebels - known as the New Forces - and the militias who support President Gbagbo in the south. Laurent Gbagbo says rebels must disarm before any elections
The BBC's James Copnall, in the main commercial city Abidjan in the south, says the division of the country has made it impossible to hold elections to find a successor to Mr Gbagbo. Electoral rolls have not been drawn up, he says, and it was no surprise when elections were postponed.
Several thousand opposition supporters attended a rally in Abidjan to demand that President Gbagbo leave office. Women wearing white face paint danced round in circles while young men loudly shouted their rage at Mr Gbagbo. Riot police fired in the air and used tear gas when some demonstrators tried to march to Mr Gbagbo's residence in the city centre and set alight wooden barricades.
There were no immediate reports of casualties. The leaders of the opposition's youth wing had called for calm but were unable to control their supporters, our correspondent says. Similar rallies are being held in the north. Supporters of President Gbagbo, known as the Young Patriots, have postponed a rally they were going to hold in Abidjan due to fears about clashes between the rival groups.
In March last year, more than 120 opposition supporters were killed by the Ivorian armeforces as they tried to demonstrate, according to a UN report. The UN Security Council has demanded that a new prime minister acceptable to all be appointed, with reinforced powers. However, our correspondent says it is not yet clear who could fill the role, nor how he and President Gbagbo will share power.

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