Ivorians prepare for the worst as standoff between two presidents continues

 
The tension is palpable in the cities of Bouaké and Abidjan, as both Laurent Gbagbo and his rival Alssane Ouattara claimed victory in a recent presidential run-off poll.
 
Since Saturday, supporters of Alassane Ouattara have been taking to the streets of Abidjan to call for Laurent Gbagbo's departure from the presidential palace. Sometimes they erect roadblocks, burning wood and tyres. Clashes with the police have been reported.
 
Former South African president Thabo Mbeki was dispatched to Abidjan by the African Union (AU) to mediate between the two camps, but to no avail.  The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) organised an extraordinary summit on December 7 to try to resolve the Ivorian crisis.
 
According to the Independent Electoral Commission, Alassane Ouattara won the second round of the presidential elections with more than 54% of the vote. He has gained the support of the international community who have rejected the results published by the Constitutional Council, which supports Laurent Gbagbo, that show the outgoing president ahead with 51.45% of the vote.

"Spontaneous identity checks are held at some roadblocks in Abidjan"

Jean-Marie Kouadio lives in Abidjan
 
I had to leave neighbourhood of Treichville because I was afraid for my safety. During the past few days, no one has known what to expect. Some youths from Abodo, a pro-Ouattara neighbourhood, have come to reinforce the roadblocks in the area.
 
Spontaneous checks have been going on since Monday at some roadblocks. They check the identity cards of pedestrians and block those who are from the West of the country, a region traditionally in favour of Gbagbo. Ivorians from the north, known for being Ouattara supporters, and Ivorians from the centre, known for supporting Bédie (first round candidate Henri Konan Bédié backed Ouattara in the second round of the election) are allowed to pass. The blocked persons are outnumbered and do not dare resist.
 

 
Most of the residents respect the 10pm to 5am curfew, that has been in place since December 6. But the schools are closed and so are most shops. The only places you can buy food are small neighbourhood markets that sell basic goods like rice, oil and sugar.
 
There are many police officers in the street, but they do not seem sufficiently equipped to deal with the protestors. They have tried to subdue those who are manning the barricades and to leave the main routes. But as soon as they leave, the roadblocks are back again. The police fired shots into the air in Treichville, but not with the intention of killing. However, I learned via Facebook that two people were killed in Abidjan this weekend.
 
Since Sunday, I have taken refuge in a friend's house in the Portbouet neighbourhood where the situation is calmer."
 


All photos sent by one of our Observers in Abidjan.
 

“This is my message to the international community: don’t wait until the fire has started to put it out”

Lookman (alias) is a civil servant living in the neighbourhood of Yopougon in Abidjan.
 
I am not going to go to work until the situation is clearer. A country cannot function with two leaders. As a civil servant, I cannot go to work without knowing who, Ouattara or Gbagbo, is going to be paying my salary.
 
I toured a few of the neighbourhoods in the capital today. The situation is calm apart from the occasional roadblock manned by youths.
 


Photos of pro-Ouattara protests in the northern city of Bouaké, sent by Kouyaté Mabrondjé. 
 
However we know that they situation could explode at any moment. People have already started getting together by ethnicity, for safety’s sake, in case things turn violent. People are packing up their things and staying  with friends or  relatives in neighbourhoods where their ethnic group is in the majority. That is a very bad sign.
 
My wife has already started storing provisions, just in case things turn for the worst. She has bought everything she could, especially rice."
 
This is my message to the international community: don’t wait until the fire has started to put it out. If you wait until civil war breaks out before stepping in, there will be much unnecessary bloodshed.”

Anti-Gbagbo protets in Bouaké

Tens of thousands of Alassane Ouattara's supporters marched in Bouaké on Sunday, December 5.
 
Post written with France 24 journalist Cécile Loïal.
 

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