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.
 
 
Video posted on YouTube by MaestroJohn1.
 

"In Ivory coast, there have always been as many judges as inhabitants; ONUCI has got caught up in this game"

Philippe lives in Cocody, a district of Abidjan.

"I am sorry about this recent act of violence but it doesn’t surprise me. Most of the people I know have the feeling that ONUCI is collaborating with the ‘rebels’. I myself believe that the vast majority of violent acts denounced by ONUCI occur in the zone controlled by Defence and Security Forces (FDS) [loyal to Laurent Gbagbo]. Violent acts which occur in the zone controlled by the New Forces (FN) [pro-Ouattara] are very rare. However, thousands of people are heading for Liberia in an attempt to flee from the violence perpetrated by the FN. In my opinion, the only balanced report is Amnesty International's, which shows that human rights violations are happening on both sides.


Response from Hamadoun Touré, spokesman for ONUCI:

"This accusation is unjustified, our staff cover all of Ivory Coast. Our reports on human rights list violent acts in the northern zone as much as the southern zone."


"Thousands of civilians had to flee the town of Abobo this weekend after a battle broke out between the FDS and 'the invisible commando'. I saw some civilians take refuge in a church several metres from my home. ONUCI has the power to stop this. Why doesn’t it do anything? The problem in Ivory Coast is that there have always been as many judges as there are inhabitants; ONUCI has got caught up in this game.

I also wonder why the rebels [the FN] are still armed when the objective of ONUCI, following its creation in 2004, was to disarm both them and the pro-Gbagbo militias. At the end of the disarmament process, the pro-Gbagbo militias had played by the rules, but the New Forces had not, as we have come to realise today."


Response from Hamadoun Touré, spokesman for ONUCI:

"Our role is not to disarm the combatants. According to the terms of the Ouagadougou agreements, they were supposed to be disarmed two months before the presidential election. When they wanted to organise elections, we warned them that the disarmament process was not yet finished. The military forces on both sides had simply been stationed, which is to say that each side was in its own zone but still armed. Despite our warnings, the different parties decided to go ahead with the elections."
 
Post written with France 24 journalist Ségolène Malterre.