Ouattara Blockades Gbagbo, Calls for End to Sanctions

Published on Friday 8th April 2011

Fighters loyal to Ivory Coast's internationally-recognized president, Alassane Ouattara, are blockading the compound of the country's incumbent leader, who is refusing to give up power after a week of fighting. Ouattara is calling for an end to sanctions as he tries to restore the country's economy.After days of fighting to drive incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo from an underground bunker, Ouattara has decided to leave him there and get on with the business of running the country.In a broadcast on his television network, Ouattara says Gbagbo has entrenched himself at the presidential compound with heavy weapons and mercenaries, so a blockade has been established around the perimeter to secure the inhabitants of the district.It is a reversal of sorts for the presidential rivals as Gbagbo blockaded Ouattara in a resort hotel for months after election results were announced in December.Gbagbo says he was re-elected when the constitutional council annulled as fraudulent nearly ten percent of ballots cast in their run-off vote. Electoral commission results certified by the United Nations show Ouattara won.When international mediation failed to convince Gbagbo to step down, pro-Ouattara fighters swept across the country and brought the battle to the gates of the presidential compound with orders to capture Gbagbo alive.Ouattara says the violent standoff caused by Gbagbo's defiance has plunged the country into a humanitarian crisis that he is now working to resolve.Ouattara is asking the European Union to lift its sanctions on the ports of Abidjan and San Pedro and certain public utilities that were imposed because of the illegitimate nature of Gbagbo's rule.He is asking the West African central bank to reopen its branches in Ivory Coast so commercial banks can resume operations and pay salaries as soon as possible. Ouattara is asking the minister of mines and energy to restart Abidjan's refinery and ensure a steady supply of fuel. He is calling on security forces previously loyal to Gbagbo to ensure the safety of commerce and the delivery of food to markets and medicines to health centers.As many as one million people have been displaced by this conflict. Valerie Amos, the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator, says Ivorians have witnessed terrible violence."People are immensely traumatized," said Amos. "They have witnessed terrible violence and many have been directly targeted. Women told me stories of witnessing their husbands being executed. Hundreds of children have been separated from their parents, and women and girls have allegedly been kidnapped."Amos says the United Nations is working to improve conditions for Ivorian refugees at camps across the border in Liberia."With more money, we can deliver more food, provide shelter, offer better medical treatment to those who are sick and much more. "And I'm concerned," said Amos, "that when the rainy season starts, which is not too far away, getting the aid in is going to be even more difficult than it is now, because there are serious logistical and transport problems."Amos says the United Nations is investigating several mass grave sites in western provinces. Ouattara is calling on his forces to maintain discipline and is promising a full investigation into all human rights violations. He says there will be no cover-up of any crimes and those responsible will be punished.


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