HOME About Blog Contact Hotel Links Donations Registration
NEWS & COMMENTARY 2008 SPEAKERS 2007 2006 2005

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Militants block Ivory Coast's largest city

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast - Hard-line supporters of Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo blocked major routes in the country's largest city Wednesday to protest an identification program that they say rebels could exploit to skew upcoming presidential elections.

It was unclear how many people were involved in the protest, though a senior U.N. peacekeeper, Col. Omar el Khadir, said there were barricades across the city. Similar protests took place in nearby towns and the blockade kept some commuters from reaching work.

"There are Young Patriots all over Abidjan. Everything has been blocked off," said the leader of one of many loosely affiliated Young Patriot groups, Hia Bibah.

The demonstrators object to a program aimed at distinguishing who — among an estimated 3.5 million people in the West African nation without birth certificates — can claim Ivorian citizenship.

Gbagbo supporters fear rebels who have controlled the north of the country since 2002 will use the program to fraudulently gain citizenship for hundreds of thousands of people who are not Ivorian and secure illegal, extra votes for Gbagbo's rivals in elections set to occur by the end of October.

Rebels and opposition leaders with roots in the north have demanded the program, saying authorities have discriminated against them by denying them national identity papers and treating them as foreigners in their own country.

Gbagbo's followers also want the rebels to disarm, a process Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny — who was appointed as a neutral mediator — has said is well under way. But the protesters claim disarmament has barely started, if at all.

Bibah said some protesters were outside the prime minister's office and planned to stay until "he listens to us."

"There is no violence planned for the moment," Bibah said. "All we want is for disarmament to start at the same time as the identification process."

As police watched over the main rally downtown, protesters in the suburbs used tables and chairs to barricade major road crossings.

"We are only letting doctors through and those who live in the neighborhood," said Alfred Djedre, who was manning a roadblock in the Abidjan suburb of Angre with 20 comrades.

An export consultant in Abidjan, a major port for the world's largest cocoa producer, said he had to halt all operations for the day.

"Nobody could get to work," Dominique Mirebeau said.

Shops in a few remote areas remained open and Eric Treno, who runs an Internet cafe in the suburbs, said he was receiving his usual customers.
Web IntelligenceSummit.org
Webmasters: Intelligence, Homeland Security & Counter-Terrorism WebRing
Copyright © IHEC 2008. All rights reserved.       E-mail info@IntelligenceSummit.org