War has returned to the Ivory Coast in the shape of massacres, mercenaries, a besieged capital, and a humanitarian nightmare. Over the last week, a political deadlock that was by all accounts frozen has become a heated contest on the battlefield. Make no mistake: This was the worst-case scenario mapped out for the Ivory Coast back in November when this crisis began.
Caritas, the Catholic charity, estimates over 1,000 people were massacred in Duékoué, possibly by Ouattara’s men. This includes children according to the only Westerner in the town:
the BBC’s Andrew Harding writes that he counted 20 corpses in just one city block, children among them.
Now reports from Abidjan indicate that Gbagbo is using human shields to protect the presidential palace.
Even more worrisome is the fact that residents of thst city are trapped in their homes, unable to buy food and necessities.
Residents of Abidjan today warned that they were running out of phone credit. Water has been cut off to parts of the city, so young women and children are often visible on the streets, scurrying with buckets to fill.
So what happens next? It’s likely that Gbagbo will be forced out, but that doesn’t mean peace. The election was close, so if Ouatarra is vengeful, his supporters and opponents could continue the fight.
This is about more than two men’s egos at this point. It’s about a country, back in civil war. And if we’d like to prevent a protracted armed conflict, maybe it’s time to start plotting out options if it comes to that.
Update: from the BBC
UN troops and French helicopter warships have attacked 2 of Gbagbo’s military bases in Abidjan. According to the news sources the bases were being used to fire mortars and other heavy artillery that was hitting civilian neighborhoods.