Thousands of anti-government demonstrators took to the streets in several cities throughout Ivory Coast on Monday, protesting against President Laurent Gbagbo‘s decision to dissolve the government and the electoral commission (CEI).
According to witnesses, protesters torched tyres and threw stones at security forces in the western Ivorian cocoa hub of Daloa, after which the latter used tear gas to disperse the mob. Due to the protests, all shops were closed in the city. In Abobo, a northern suburb of the commercial hub of Abidjan, a Reuters cameraman saw at least one police officers wielding a machete when he was trying to disperse demonstrators, while another plainclothes policemen lost his gun to a group of protestors. Several roadblocks were also set up on the main road between the capital Yamasoukro and Abidjan. In Toumodi, south of the capital, 2,000 people were able to march peacefully through the city, although a huge security force kept a close eye on the group.
Last week saw peaceful demonstrations until Friday, when security forces shot with live rounds at demonstrators, killing at least five people. This caused the protests to become more violent in the weekend with cars being set alight, shops smashed and government offices looted on Saturday in the central city of Bouaké, while anti-government protestors burned and ransacked everything in their path in Abidjan’s southern Kumasi district on Sunday.
It was also reported that the French television station France 24’s programs had been “suspended” on Monday by the Ivorian government due to their “unprofessional use of information” about the recent “political situation” in the country.
Political tensions in Ivory Coast began after President Gbagbo sacked the government and dissolved the CEI on February 12. He thereafter ordered Prime Minister Guillaume Soro, leader of the former rebel New Forces, to form a new government and to find a new format for the poll body. Meanwhile, Burkinabe President Blaise Compaore, the mediator in the Ivorian conflict, called for “urgent” talks between Ivory Coast’s political leaders to resolve the crisis and to find “a permanent solution“.