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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Sunday 30 October 2005

COTE D IVOIRE: Thousands rally to demand Gbagbo quit power

ABIDJAN, 30 Oct 2005 (IRIN) - Thousands of opposition supporters rallied in Cote d’Ivoire to demand that President Laurent Gbagbo quit power on Sunday, the day peace-sealing elections should have been held.

Fears of violence had mounted in the weeks running up to the landmark date but with larger numbers of government security forces out on the streets, the day passed without any major trouble.

Wearing T-shirts saying "October 30, 2005 Gbagbo out" and chanting "Goodbye Gbagbo!”, the young opposition supporters gathered in a stadium in the Treichville suburb of the main city, Abidjan.

"We are here to say to the international community that the mandate of Laurent Gbagbo and the FPI (Ivorian Popular Front) is finished,” Fofana Yaya told IRIN under the blazing sun.

“In five years they have got rich as we have got poor. He must leave. I'm ready to march on the presidency today at midnight," Yaya added.

Midnight marks the end of Gbagbo's elected five years in office.

Opposition leaders have rejected a UN resolution for Gbagbo to remain head of state for up to another 12 months. During that extension he would have to organise the now overdue polls with the assistance of a new prime minister.

Cote d’Ivoire has been split into a government-run south and a rebel-held north since a failed insurgency in September 2002. An uncertain no war, no peace climate reigns and many of the protesters’ complaints on Sunday were personal.

"We have diplomas, but we still can't find work," said Helene Konan, who is in her twenties. "It's only the FPI militants that get jobs in the government administration and all the private companies have shut. We don't want a president like Gbagbo anymore."

Street demonstrations remain banned in Cote d'Ivoire, but the organisers of Sunday's rally got around that by billing the gathering as a celebration of the national football team’s recent qualification for the 2006 World Cup, and staging the event in a contained space.

No major violence

The last time opposition supporters matched through the streets of Abidjan in March 2004, security forces and pro-Gbagbo militia groups killed at least 120 people, according to a subsequent UN human rights investigation.

Sunday’s rally passed off largely peacefully. In an isolated incident, witnesses said police fired off tear gas to disperse some supporters as they left the stadium, after a man, accused by the crowd of being a police officer, was badly beaten.

Security forces had spent Saturday staging the final in a series of military displays closing one of the main bridges that spans the lagoon on which the city is built.

A sole helicopter and half a dozen militarised boats performed search and rescue operations to the cheers of thousands of residents who turned out for the show.

The display was broadcast on state television in what local newspapers described as a show of force after a week of coup rumours and opposition threats to forcibly oust Gbagbo.

In the rebel held stronghold of Bouake, residents were unimpressed and on Sunday hundreds marched through the streets to demand that Gbagbo leave office.

That demonstration was also peaceful but rebel spokesman, Sidiki Konate, said on Sunday that the New Forces were prepared to use "any means necessary "to make Gbagbo leave office.

A leading pro-Gbagbo group, the Young Patriots, had been due to have their own rally on Sunday but they postponed it until Tuesday, avoiding a potential clash with the opposition.

An expected meeting between all the signatories of a 2003 peace agreement, chaired by African Union Chairman President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and AU mediator and South African President Thabo Mbeki, also failed to materialise.

The continental leaders had been expected to hold a meeting in Yamoussoukro to iron out differences between the Ivorian factions about who should be the new prime minister.

[ENDS]

This material comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but May not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. All materials copyright © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2005



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