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In Ivory Coast, the great cost of conflict

[ 2011-04-02 13:01]     字号 [] [] []  
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This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

Ivory Coast gained independence from France in 1960. It grew into one of the wealthiest countries in West Africa through cocoa exports and foreign investments.


But its latest political crisis has come at great cost. The United Nations says several hundred people have been killed since early December. As many as one million have fled their homes, mostly in Abidjan, the main city. Some have fled west to Liberia or east to Ghana.

On Friday, the UN human rights office expressed concern about unconfirmed reports of kidnapping and abuse of civilians by fighters loyal to Alassane Ouattara. He is the internationally recognized winner of the presidential election last year. But President Laurent Gbagbo refuses to accept the results.

A UN human rights spokesman, Rupert Colville, said most of the reports were from western Ivory Coast.

RUPERT COLVILLE: "Initially, most of the abuses, if not all the abuses, were by the forces in support of Laurent Gbagbo, former president. But recently there's been an increase of retaliatory attacks by people on the other side, including a slightly mysterious group called the Invisible Commandos who've been operating against Gbagbo."

The International Committee of the Red Cross said civilians trapped by the fighting have been unable to get food, water or medicine. The Red Cross has appealed for an additional 16 million dollars to help people entering Liberia.

Fighters loyal to Mr. Ouattara moved into Abidjan on Thursday after a quick offensive through Ivory Coast. Pro-Gbagbo forces surrendered the airport to the nearly 10,000 United Nations peacekeeping troops in the country.

Mr. Ouattara called for the support of all government troops.


The country is calling you, he said.

Years ago, Alassane Ouattara lived and studied in the United States. He received a doctorate in economics at the University of Pennsylvania in the early 1970s. He worked for the International Monetary Fund and the Central Bank of West African States.

Mr. Ouattara, who is Muslim, was born in central Ivory Coast in 1942. He served as prime minister in the early 1990s. But questions about his citizenship kept him out of the presidential election in 2000.

Laurent Gbagbo was born to a Catholic family in the south in 1945. He attended Paris' Sorbonne University and later spent time in exile in the French capital. In 1971, he was arrested in Ivory Coast for "subversive teaching." He continued his activism after returning in 1988.

The former history professor came to power in 2000 as a supporter of full democracy. But hopes for a new kind of African leadership fell as elections were repeatedly postponed.

Mr. Gbagbo himself became president after a disputed election and political unrest. But after two years he faced a rebellion in the north. A peace treaty in 2007 led to the presidential election last year. Mr. Gbagbo won the first vote. But he refused to accept defeat in a runoff election.

And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember.

Related stories:

Ivory Coast incumbent president rejects call for more UN peacekeepers

African leaders seek resolution to Ivory Coast political crisis

International pressure on Ivory Coast is increasing

New attention given to child cocoa workers in Ivory Coast, Ghana

(来源:VOA 编辑:崔旭燕)