AFRICA/IVORY COAST - National press opinions divide with regard to UN report on clashes in Abidjan on 25 March

Tuesday, 4 May 2004

Abidjan (Fides Service)- “So far there have been no official reactions, but a statement from the President is expected in the next few hours” a local Church sources in Abidjan, economic capital of Ivory Coast told Fides with regard to national press airing of a UN report on violent repression on March 25 of demonstrators protesting against President Laurent Gbagbo (see Fides 26 March 2004). According to Radio France International the UN report blames the President for the violence in which at least 120 persons are said to have been killed. The report accuses the Ivorian security forces and paramilitary groups and “the highest state authorities” of organising “a carefully planned operation ” to repress an Opposition demonstration. “On 25 and 26 March, innocent civilians were killed indiscriminately and serious violation of human rights were committed” the Report affirms. “At 120 persons were killed, 274 inured and 20 are missing” says the report, adding “these figures are not final”.
“Opposition press gave ample space to the UN Report”- the sources told Fides -“ whereas pro-government press affirms that the President won a battle with French press which he accused of slander. Pro-president press now says Gbagbo intends to bring a libel action against RFI. In fact the UN Report has not been officially released. Newspapers quote men near the President who accuse the French radio of giving a partial reading of the United Nations’ report ”.
President Gbagbo recently said he was in favour of an international court to judge crimes against humanity in Ivory Coast since September 2002, when the civil war civil started. “To do this the President must have some credible evidence” the source told Fides. This preview of the UN Report is part of a verbal battle between President Gbagbo and his political adversaries, while the country is still divided in two zones, one under the government and the other, the north-west, under the New Forces rebels demanding secession. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 4/5/2004, righe 32 parole396)