Ivory Coast blames deadly attacks on Gbagbo loyalists
Ivory Coast’s government on Tuesday accused fighters loyal to ex-president Laurent Gbagbo of perpetrating deadly attacks that killed 10 soldiers and rattled fragile reconciliation efforts.
The attacks came as the west African former French colony prepared to mark 52 years of independence with a military parade in Abidjan on Tuesday.
“They were people who come from the myriad pro-Gbagbo militiamen and former armed forces nostalgic for the Gbagbo regime,” Interior Minister Hamed Bakayoko told Radio France Internationale.
Gbagbo’s political party, the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), did not respond directly to the accusations but said in a statement it was against bloodshed.
“The FPI leadership condemns with the utmost vigour this wave of deadly violence,” the party said, while also calling on the government to capture the attackers.
According to official sources, six soldiers were killed in a pre-dawn attack on Monday against an army base that also housed a contingent of the United Nations peacekeeping force.
On Sunday, gunmen attacked a police station and an army post in another neighbourhood, killing four soldiers. Several other soldiers were severely wounded in one of the worst security incidents since Alassane Ouattara was sworn in last year.
The attacks and Bakayoko’s claim highlighted the lingering tensions in a country still awash with weapons and demobbed fighters more than a year after the deadly post-poll violence that ousted Gbagbo and brought in Ouattara.
“I think everything was planned by pro-Gbagbo former soldiers from Ghana,” Bakayoko said, adding that he also thought the attackers had accomplices inside the Akouedo military base attacked on Monday.
According to UN and military sources, the gunmen stormed the camp from two separate entrances and made a bee line for the powder magazine before being forced to flee by army reinforcements.
Gbagbo refused to concede defeat following 2010 presidential polls pitting him against arch foe Ouattara but was eventually captured by forces loyal to the opposition candidate backed by foreign troops.
The five-month conflict left at least 3,000 people dead, according to the UN, and re-opened old wounds in a country that had already been deeply divided by years of civil conflict under Gbagbo’s decade-long tenure.
Many of Gbagbo’s most loyal forces went back to the bush, some of them finding refuge in neighbouring countries such as Ghana and Liberia.
Gbagbo was last year bundled off to The Hague, where he faces trial at the International Criminal Court on four counts of crimes against humanity over the post-election violence.
“This time around the independence celebrations has been identified as a time to harass” government targets, Bakayoko said.
He also argued that the August 13 date initially scheduled by the ICC for Gbagbo’s confirmation of charges hearing may been a factor in the timing of the latest spate of violence.
The world’s only permanent war crimes tribunal however has since indefinitely postponed the hearing pending an assessment of Gbagbo’s health.
Bakayoko accused the pro-Gbagbo camp of trying to undermine confidence in the recovery of the world’s top cocoa exporter.
“There is a whole string of acts and attacks designed to harm resurgent investor confidence and demoralise the Ivorian population,” he said.
“We have been informed that this provocation will continue and we have therefore given instructions to our forces,” he said.