The newly appointed ambassador from the Ivory Coast to the United Nations, Youssoufou Bamba, warned that the country is “on the brink of genocide.” Because of ongoing political unrest, Bamba says that significant human rights violations are already occurring. Almost 20,000 people, mostly women and children, have already fled to neighboring Liberia, fearing more violence.
The political instability stems from the refusal of Laurent Gbagbo to step down, despite the fact that his rival, Alassane Ouattara, has been internationally recognized as the victor in the recent presidential election. Both men have been sworn in as president, although because he was appointed by Ouattara, Bamba’s very presence in the UN clearly shows who has international backing.
In a press conference, Bamba explained that Ouattara’s most pressing concern was the ongoing human rights violations and the possibility of future violence. He explained that 173 people had already been killed “only because they want to demonstrate, they want to speak out, they want to defend the will of the people.” He added that some houses had been marked because of their occupants’ ethnic background, an extremely worrying sign.
Earlier this week, UN peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy attacked the state media, which is controlled by Gbagbo, accusing the media of inciting the population to turn against the 9,500 UN peacekeepers in the country. One peacekeeper was already involved in an altercation where he was wounded with a machete.
Ouattara is currently ensconced in a hotel in the country’s main city, protected by UN troops. Gbagbo supporters have threatened to storm the hotel. The greatest fear is that the country could be tipped back into civil war, which in the past resulted in a division of the country.
We’ll keep you posted if anything further happens in the Ivory Coast, but for now, it will be interesting to see what the UN chooses to do, and whether they move beyond invectives to actual action. After recent UN peacekeeping failures in the Congo, though, I have to say I’m skeptical.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.