A vehicle belonging to the United Nations Operations in Ivory Coast (ONUCI) has once again been targeted by followers of Ivorian strongman Laurent Gbagbo, who has accused UN peacekeepers of supporting his rival for the presidency, Alassane Ouattara. Below, a spokesman for ONUCI responds to the accusations of bias made by several pro-Gbagbo readers on the Observers site.
The Ivory Coast has been locked in a deep political crisis since a disputed presidential election on November 28, after which both Laurent Gbagbo and his rival Alassane Ouattara declared themselves president. But Alassane Ouattara is the only president who gained widespread international recognition after the Independent Electoral Commission declared him the rightful winner with over 54 percent of the votes.
On Sunday, the former rebels of the New Forces (FN), who support Alassane Ouattara, took the town of Doké in the country's west. It is the fourth town held by Laurent Gbagbo’s forces to fall into their hands.
Abidjan, the country's largest city, has been the scene of violent clashes between pro-Ouattara insurgents and the Defence and Security Forces (FDS) loyal to Gbagbo. Tensions are running particularly high in the district of Abobo, one of the pro-Ouattara outposts in Abidjan. Abobo has been a battlefield for almost two months. Since Sunday, it is believed that the town has been under the control of “the invisible commando”, a heavily armed pro-Ouattara group. The group has been patrolling the neighbourhoods in a pick-up.
As the violence escalated in the economic capital of Ivory Coast, on Saturday a group of pro-Gbagbo militants – described by several witnesses as young patriots – attacked an ONUCI vehicle parked outside a supermarket of Cocody, another Abidjan district. A Ghanaian soldier who was inside the vehicle was assaulted by the militia. He is currently in hospital.
We asked ONUCI spokesman Hamadoun Touré to respond to the criticisms and accusations that have been made by a number of readers on the France 24 Observers’s site. His responses follow the comments of one of the site’s users.