Ivory Coast president cuts off power and water to north

Millions of people in rebel-controlled region left without vital supplies as country moves towards civil war

Ivory Coast’s Laurent Gbagbo, who refuses to cede the presidency to Alassane Ouattara, has also launched a crackdown on press loyal to his rival. Photograph: Sia Kambou/AFP/Getty Images

The Ivory Coast president, Laurent Gbagbo, has cut off electricity and water supplies to millions of people in the north of the country “for political reasons”, the UN has said.

The national power company reported that armed men entered its buildings on Monday night and ordered the shutdown, the latest step in an increasingly violent move towards civil war.

“The statement of the electricity company (says) this energy shortage is not due to technical issues,” a UN official, Ndolamb Ngokwey, told the BBC. “They clearly said it has to do with the political situation, so it was cut for political reasons.”

A war eight years ago divided the country into a rebel-controlled north and a loyalist south. Issia Doumbia, a spokesman for the New Forces rebels, who control the north and are loyal to Gbagbo’s rival Alassane Ouattara, told the Associated Press: “Millions of people across the north are without water or electricity. During the entire war, Gbagbo never cut the people off. But now, things are turning bad fast.”

Read more

Ivory Coast on brink of civil war as seven women killed at protest march

Military says shootings were ‘blunder we regret’ as once stable nation faces meltdown

A picture allegedly shows the body of one of the seven women shot dead in Abobo, a working class neighborhood of Abidjan, Ivory Coast Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Seven women have been massacred during a peaceful protest in Ivory Coast as the country appeared to stand on the brink of all-out civil war.

More than 200,000 people have fled, and the nation that was once a model of stability in west Africa is now experiencing bloodshed and economic meltdown.

The women’s demonstration became a scene of terror when security forces opened fire with machine guns in Abobo, a sprawling, impoverished suburb of the commercial capital, Abidjan, where some of the deadliest clashes have taken place during three months of crisis.

They were about to set off from a roundabout on a march to call on Laurent Gbagbo to step down as president. “Men in uniform drove up and started shooting randomly. Six women died on the spot,” Idrissa Diarrassouba told Reuters. A seventh died in hospital. Many others were wounded.

There was no official comment but a military source confirmed the shooting. “It was a blunder that we regret,” the source said, adding that security forces believe rebels sometimes hide among civilians. “It is unfortunate.”

Read more

Bank Run: Ivory Coast Banks, Stock Exchange Close

Ivory Coast’s financial system is grinding to a halt with banks closing and the stock market suspended, sparking a run on the banks left open as the West African nation’s political crisis drags on.

(Bloomberg) — Ivory Coast’s financial system is grinding to a halt with banks closing and the stock market suspended, sparking a run on the lenders left open as the West African nation’s political crisis drags on.

Standard Chartered Plc, Citigroup Inc., BNP Paribas SA and Societe Generale SA have all closed their units in the world’s top cocoa producer because of security fears after a disputed Nov. 28 vote left the country with two rival administrations. Bank Atlantique Cote D’Ivoire, the country’ second-biggest bank, said on its website that it has suspended its operations.

The Central Bank of West African States has demanded banks in the region halt all transactions with its agencies in Ivory Coast after the offices were seized by Laurent Gbagbo, the incumbent president. Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognized winner of the election, has also called on companies to stop paying taxes to Gbagbo’s administration and told coffee and cocoa shippers to halt exports for one month in a bid to starve Gbagbo of funds.

Read more