Rebels besiege Ivory Coast’s main city of Abidjan

President Laurent Ggabo still refuses to abdicate the seat, blaming the rebel attacks on the US and Europe

Topics: Africa,

Rebels besiege Ivory Coast's main city of AbidjanFILE - Allassane Ouattara waves to supporters shortly after his arrival in the Ivory Coast, at the airport in Abidjan, in this Wednesday, Dec. 29, 1999 file photo. Fighters supporting Ivory Coast's internationally recognized President Alassane Ouattara seized control of the country's administrative capital, Yamoussoukro on Wednesday March 30 2011. It was seen as a symbolic victory by Ouattara's forces after months of political chaos that began when Laurent Gbagbo, the incumbent president, refused to recognize the results of the November election. (AP Photo/Clement Ntaye)

Rebels fighting to install Ivory Coast’s democratically elected president began besieging the main city of Abidjan on Thursday after seizing a key seaport overnight. The top military commander of the country’s entrenched ruler fled to the residence of South Africa’s ambassador.

However, an adviser to longtime president Laurent Gbagbo said he would not step down even in the face of a rebel onslaught on the country’s commercial capital.

“He will not resign in the wake of this attack. He is not going to abdicate. He is not going to lay down his arms,” said Toussaint Alain, an adviser to Gbagbo in Europe. “He will stay in power to lead the resistance to this attack against Ivory Coast organized by France, the United States and the United Nations.”

United Nations radio announced that the port of San Pedro, 190 miles (300 kilometers) west of Abidjan, was taken by rebels late Wednesday. Residents said by telephone that soldiers retreated in trucks while firing into the air as the rebels moved in.

Rebels also took Gbagbo’s hometown, the village of Mama, where the former president had built a lavish villa, said a close aide to internationally recognized leader Alassane Ouattara.

“The rebels slept in Gbagbo’s bed,” said the aide, who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the press.

In Abidjan, rebels already in control of several northern districts of the city attacked a prison and freed the inmates, a rebel commander said.

The rebels who support Ouattara also advanced into Yopougon, a district of Abidjan that fervently supports Gbagbo, witnesses said.

The rebel army is on the periphery of Abidjan, said the close aide to Ouattara, who was recognized by governments around the world as the country’s legitimate president after winning last November’s presidential election.

“They will enter the city on multiple fronts, from multiple directions,” said the adviser.

Ivory Coast’s army chief of staff, Gen. Phillippe Mangou, sought refuge at the home of the South African ambassador in Abidjan with his wife and five children, South Africa’s foreign ministry said Thursday.

Advancing on foot while firing into the air, the rebels set up roadblocks on one of Yopougon’s main thoroughfares and have been battling with police since early Thursday morning, said a local resident who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals.



Across town in the predominantly pro-Ouattara Adjame district, several residents reported that pro-Gbagbo militiamen were firing weapons, though it was unclear at what.

The rebels have seized over a dozen towns since beginning their offensive on Monday, and the fall of the cocoa-exporting port of San Pedro came hours after they took the capital, Yamoussoukro. There, they did a victory lap in vehicles as people cheered and clapped.

They have faced almost no resistance but many fear that army troops still loyal to Gbagbo plan to make a final stand in Abidjan, the country’s economic hub and where the presidential palace is located.

Ouattara’s whereabouts were not immediately known. He had been holed up for months in the lagoonside Golf Hotel in Abidjan, protected by United Nations peacekeeping troops. Ouattara, who is from the country’s north, had long tried to distance himself from the rebels based there who fought in a brief civil war almost a decade ago that left the country split in two.

Clayson Monyela, a South African foreign ministry official, said Mangou and his family were allowed to stay at the ambassador’s home in Abidjan “on humanitarian grounds,” but that no immediate decision has been made on whether to grant him asylum. He said South Africa’s foreign ministry is consulting with unnamed parties in Ivory Coast, West African regional leaders, the African Union and the U.N. on Mangou’s move.

South African President Jacob Zuma has been a key mediator as the African Union sought to find a peaceful way to install Ouattara as president. South Africa has had to repeatedly deny it is siding with Gbagbo after initially calling the elections flawed, which some saw as refusing to acknowledge Ouattara’s victory.

On Wednesday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded an immediate end to the escalating violence and imposed sanctions on Gbagbo, who has refused to relinquish the presidency, and his inner circle.

Up to 1 million people have fled the fighting, and at least 462 people have been killed since the election.

Gbagbo and Ouattara two men have vied for the presidency for months, with Ouattara using his considerable international clout to try to financially and diplomatically suffocate Gbagbo. After the final round of diplomatic efforts had failed to remove Gbagbo, the rebels launched a dramatic offensive this week, seizing control of the country from the west, the center and the east.

Seydou Ouattara, a spokesman for the rebels who is not related to the political leader, said that they faced so little resistance from Gbagbo’s forces because Gbagbo had tried to neuter the army. Diplomats and human rights groups have said that Gbagbo enlisted Liberian mercenaries and has armed militias because he did not trust the regular army.

“He recruited mercenaries. He recruited militias. He essentially told the army we have no confidence in you. We were able to use this to our advantage,” said Seydou Ouattara. “In each town, we told the soldiers, we are your brothers. We want the same thing.”

——

Associated Press writers Sophie Tetrel in Paris, and Donna Bryson and Michelle Faul in Johannesburg contributed to this report.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 17
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    John Stanmeyer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Container City: Shipping containers, indispensable tool of the globalized consumer economy, reflect the skyline in Singapore, one of the world’s busiest ports.

    Lu Guang

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Man Covering His Mouth: A shepherd by the Yellow River cannot stand the smell, Inner Mongolia, China

    Carolyn Cole/LATimes

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Angry Crowd: People jostle for food relief distribution following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti

    Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    “Black Friday” Shoppers: Aggressive bargain hunters push through the front doors of the Boise Towne Square mall as they are opened at 1 a.m. Friday, Nov. 24, 2007, Boise, Idaho, USA

    Google Earth/NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Suburban Sprawl: aerial view of landscape outside Miami, Florida, shows 13 golf courses amongst track homes on the edge of the Everglades.

    Garth Lentz

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Toxic Landscape: Aerial view of the tar sands region, where mining operations and tailings ponds are so vast they can be seen from outer space; Alberta, Canada

    Cotton Coulson/Keenpress

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Ice Waterfall: In both the Arctic and Antarctic regions, ice is retreating. Melting water on icecap, North East Land, Svalbard, Norway

    Yann Arthus-Bertrand

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Satellite Dishes: The rooftops of Aleppo, Syria, one of the world’s oldest cities, are covered with satellite dishes, linking residents to a globalized consumer culture.

    Stephanie Sinclair

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Child Brides: Tahani, 8, is seen with her husband Majed, 27, and her former classmate Ghada, 8, and her husband in Hajjah, Yemen, July 26, 2010.

    Mike Hedge

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Megalopolis: Shanghai, China, a sprawling megacity of 24 Million

    Google Earth/ 2014 Digital Globe

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Big Hole: The Mir Mine in Russia is the world’s largest diamond mine.

    Daniel Dancer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Clear-cut: Industrial forestry degrading public lands, Willamette National Forest, Oregon

    Peter Essick

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Computer Dump: Massive quantities of waste from obsolete computers and other electronics are typically shipped to the developing world for sorting and/or disposal. Photo from Accra, Ghana.

    Daniel Beltra

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Oil Spill Fire: Aerial view of an oil fire following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Gulf of Mexico

    Ian Wylie

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Slide 13

    Airplane Contrails: Globalized transportation networks, especially commercial aviation, are a major contributor of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Photo of contrails in the west London sky over the River Thames, London, England.

    R.J. Sangosti/Denver Post

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Fire: More frequent and more intense wildfires (such as this one in Colorado, USA) are another consequence of a warming planet.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>