Ivory Coast on the 'Brink of Genocide'

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The Guardian/UK

Ivory Coast on the 'Brink of Genocide'

UN ambassador says election crisis has led to a 'massive violation of human rights' and calls for international intervention

by
David Smith and agencies

UN peacekeepers in Ivory Coast. The UN ambassador Youssoufou Bamba has called for international support to avert an escalation of post-election violence in the country. (Photograph: Issouf Sanogo/AFP/Getty Images)

Ivory Coast is on the "brink of genocide" and the world must take urgent action, the country's new ambassador to the UN has warned.

Youssoufou
Bamba expressed alarm that houses in certain areas were being marked
according to the tribe of the person who lives there.

World
leaders have stepped up pressure on President Laurent Gbagbo to quit in
favour of Alassane Ouattara, widely recognised as having won last
month's elections.

Speaking in New York, Bamba, appointed as
ambassador to the UN by Ouattara, described him as the rightful ruler of
Ivory Coast. "He has been elected in a free, fair, transparent,
democratic election," he said. "The result has been proclaimed by the
independent electoral commission, certified by the UN. To me the debate
is over, now you are talking about how and when Mr Gbagbo will leave
office."

Bamba alleged there had been a "massive violation of human rights",
with more than 170 people killed during street demonstrations in Ivory
Coast. "Thus, one of the messages I try to get across during the
conversations I have conducted so far, is to tell we are on the brink of
genocide. Something should be done."

He implied that Ouattara
supporters, whose strongholds are largely in the north, could be
targeted by Gbagbo backers, saying: "If houses are being marked
according to your tribe, what is going to be next?"

Bamba said he
planned to meet every member of the UN security council. "I intend to
meet all the 15 members to explain to them the gravity of the situation
... We expect the United Nations to be credible and the United Nations to prevent violation and to prevent the election to be stolen from the people."

The
28 November election was meant to reunite Ivory Coast, the world's top
cocoa producer, after a 2002-03 civil war. But a dispute over the
results has provoked lethal street clashes and threatens to restart open
conflict.

The UN general assembly last week recognised Ouattara
as Ivory Coast's legitimate president by unanimously deciding that the
list of diplomats he submitted be recognised as the sole official
representatives of Ivory Coast at the UN.

The UN's peacekeeping
chief, Alain Le Roy, said his troops had become a target of violence in
Ivory Coast after a campaign of "disturbing lies" on state television
suggested the UN was arming and transporting anti-Gbagbo rebels.

The
US state department spokesman, Mark Toner, said America was planning
for the possible evacuation of its embassy in Ivory Coast amid concerns
of a full-blown conflict.

Ouattara and his prime minister,
Guillaume Soro, remain holed up in a hotel in the commercial capital,
Abidjan, protected by UN forces. Supporters of Gbagbo, the Young
Patriots, have threatened to storm the hotel.

The group's leader,
Charles Blé Goudé, who is also Gbagbo's youth minister, warned the west
African regional bloc, Ecowas, not to send troops. "They should prepare
themselves very well because we are thinking about totally liberating
our country, and soon I will launch the final assault," he said.

West
African leaders have backed off their threat of military action for
now. On Tuesday the presidents of Sierra Leone, Benin and Cape Verde
delivered an ultimatum on behalf of Ecowas, hoping to escort Gbagbo into
exile. He refused to budge.

An Ouattara adviser, speaking on
condition of anonymity, said Gbagbo demanded a vote recount during the
negotiations with the visiting delegation and wants amnesty if he leaves
office.

The Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan, said the
leaders would return to Ivory Coast on Monday. "Whenever there is a
dispute, whenever there is disagreement, it is dialogue that will solve
issues," Jonathan said in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, where Ecowas is
based. "The dialogue is on. They are encouraging us to go back."

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