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Envoy warns Ivory Coast 'on brink of genocide'

Envoy warns Ivory Coast 'on brink of genocide'

Ivory Coast's new U.N. ambassador said Wednesday that an increasingly dangerous tug-of-war over the presidency is pushing the West African country to "the brink of genocide."
Veteran diplomat Youssoufou Bamba said he's already consulting with members of the new Security Council before its first meeting next week about ways to help president-elect Alassane Ouattara assume power.
Laurent Gbagbo, the incumbent, refuses to step down although the world recognizes Ouattara as the winner of recent elections.
"I intend to meet with all 15 members" of the new council, Bamba told reporters shortly after presenting his diplomatic credentials to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
He noted that at least 173 people already have been killed "only because they want to demonstrate, they want to speak out, they want to defend the will of the people."
"That's one of the messages I'm trying to get across in the consultations I've conducted so far, to tell them we are on the brink of genocide," Bamba said. "Something should be done."
He implied that Ouattara supporters, whose strongholds are largely in the north, could be targeted by Gbagbo backers, saying: "If houses are being marked according to your tribe, what is going to be next?"
The U.N. documented the 173 killings between Dec. 16 and 21 and says that at least 90 other people have been tortured or treated inhumanely because of postelection violence in the country.
The U.N. deputy human rights commissioner, Kyung-wha Kang, told the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva late last week that human rights advocates had documented at least 471 arrests and detentions and 24 cases of people who disappeared involuntarily.
But restrictions imposed on U.N. personnel have made it impossible for them to investigate many allegations about human rights violations in the country, including reports of mass graves.
On Tuesday, a U.N. peacekeeper in Ivory Coast was wounded with a machete when his patrol was encircled by angry people in a pro-Gbagbo neighborhood. A U.N. armored personnel carrier was burned before the head of the national army personally intervened to allow the peacekeepers to retreat.
Bamba, a 60-year-old career diplomat, was Ivory Coast's ambassador to Washington in 2000-2001, and most recently before U.N. agencies in Vienna.
He acknowledged that he was unsure how he would receive his salary with the nation's financial assets frozen while Gbagbo remains in power. But he didn't seem worried, saying: "I have been a diplomat for 25 years. I have some savings."


Updated : 2021-02-26 15:57 GMT+08:00