The United Nations Security Council suppressed a 2004 secret report detailing the abuses of Ivory Coast death squads for fear of disrupting the nation’s fragile “peace process” and upsetting the government of President Laurent Gbagbo.
This revelation proves especially damning in light of the country’s current electoral crisis marked by the resurrection of these Gestapo forces that have brutalized the opposition, as Gbagbo, who was defeated in the recent Presidential runoff a few weeks ago, refuses to cede power. According to the New York Times:
Witnesses and human rights advocates say the government’s security agents, often wearing hoods, have beaten, shot and killed opposition activists and residents in neighborhoods known to support the man who election officials and the United Nations say won the Nov. 28 election, Alassane Ouattara. He is now holed up in a hotel, guarded by international peacekeepers.
Despite the electoral commission declaring that Mr. Ouattara won the election 54% to 46% and governments around the world calling for Gbagbo to step down, the recalcitrant President has sworn himself in for another term, formed a new cabinet and refuses to leave the presidential palace.
Amnesty International reported that in the last week alone 20 opposition supporters have been killed around the country. What should disturb the UN is the fact that these are the very same repressive tactics as the ones outlined in its report six years ago, as highlighted by this excerpt:
“Groups of soldiers, police, security agents or armed civilians, often in uniform, have been designated for special missions to kill or kidnap people bothersome to the regime,” the report said. “They sometimes act during the day, but they generally operate at night.”
The same victims appear to be singled out today as well – mainly Northerners and those deemed to be of foreign origin because, according to the report, “they are taken to be with the rebels.”
The report was suppressed at the insistence of South Africa’s former president, Thabo Mbeki, who was heavily involved in peace negotiations and has recently returned in the same failing role.
In response, a Gbagbo spokesman rejected the claims saying: “I don’t know what those are. We have never used political violence. From the beginning, we have chosen a peaceful transition to democracy.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Gbagbo has the support of several leading generals and control of state television, the only broadcaster permitted in the country, which has saluted his “Olympian calm” while mocking foreign powers that dare cast judgment.
On Thursday Gbagbo claimed he was open to negotiation but has refused to go into exile, while hinting at a desire for some type of power-sharing arrangement, which is an avenue the opposition has outright rejected.
The crisis has hit the Ivorian economy hard as well as the global commodities markets because the Ivory Coast is the world’s largest producer of cocoa. The economic crisis is likely to only get worse if Gbagbo retains office because the U.S. and Europe are threatening sanctions that could be levied in the coming days.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU) have both suspended all activities with the Ivory Coast until Ouattara is recognized as the president-elect, who himself is trying to get control of all Ivorian accounts at the West African central bank.
Gbagbo will become so isolated by the international community that he’ll soon be unable to pay government salaries, which will eventually cause him to lose the remainder of his domestic support including those members of the military currently protecting him.
Ironically, it is worth noting that Mr. Gbagbo came to power in the first place in 2000 by riding a wave of mass protest against the rigging of that year’s presidential election.
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