Ivory Coast's Gbagbo Losing Grip on Abidjan

Published on Thursday 31st March 2011

Ivory Coast's incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo is facing calls to resign immediately, as power slips from his grasp in the main city of Abidjan.United Nations peacekeepers haven taken control of the Abidjan airport, while France says French peacekeepers are patrolling parts of Abidjan where looting broke out Thursday.
The United States, former colonial power France, and officials with the country's internationally-recognized president, Alassane Ouattara, all issued calls Thursday for Mr. Gbagbo to step down.Fighters backing Mr. Ouattara have swept across Ivory Coast this week, seizing cities and towns and facing only minor resistance from Mr. Gbagbo's security forces.Sounds of gunfire and explosions were heard in Abidjan Thursday as Ouattara forces descended on the city.
In one incident, pro-Ouattara fighters attacked a prison and freed all of the inmates.Mr. Gbagbo has resisted pressure to give up power since Mr. Ouattara was declared the winner of last November's presidential election.In a statement broadcast on his private television station Thursday, Mr. Ouattara called on Gbagbo loyalists to switch sides.  His aides predicted that Mr. Gbagbo could fall from power within hours.Earlier in the day, South Africa said Mr. Gbagbo's army chief of staff and his family sought refuge at the Abidjan home of the South African ambassador.The United Nations said Thursday that at least 494 people have been killed since the political crisis began in early December.  It says up to 1 million people have been displaced, with thousands fleeing west to Liberia or east to Ghana. Mr. Ouattara has spent most of the last four months in an Abidjan hotel, protected by U.N. peacekeepers but surrounded by pro-Gbagbo security forces.November's disputed election was meant to reunite Ivory Coast, nearly a decade after a brief civil war left it split into a rebel-controlled north and a government-controlled south.  On Wednesday, the U.N. Security Council approved sanctions against Mr. Gbagbo, including a travel ban and asset freeze on him, his wife and three key aides.The resolution urged the nearly 10,000 U.N. peacekeepers in Ivory Coast to use "all necessary means" to protect civilians under "imminent threat of violence," including to prevent the use of heavy weapons against the civilian population.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.


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