The leader of a militia that supports incumbent Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo is calling on his supporters to oust foreign troops by Friday. The call comes after the United Nations said it would not abide by Mr. Gbagbo’s demand that U.N. peacekeepers withdraw from the country.
Tensions continue to rise in Ivory Coast. Incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo refuses to cede power to Alassane Ouattara, who was recognized by the United Nations and much of the international community as the winner of the Nov. 28 presidential run-off.
On Saturday, Gbagbo called for the 10,000 U.N. peacekeepers and 900 French soldiers currently in Ivory Coast to leave immediately. The United Nations said it does not recognize Mr. Gbagbo as the country’s president and will not withdraw.
Gbagbo and his supporters accuse foreigners of interfering in Ivory Coast’s affairs and threatening its sovereignty.
The leader of Gbagbo’s feared Young Patriots militia group, Charles Ble-Goude, is urging supporters to oust peacekeeping troops this week.
Addressing thousands at a rally in Abidjan Saturday night, he called on supporters to “completely liberate” the country by Friday.
A spokesman for U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Saturday that the U.N. mission in Ivory Coast “will fulfill its mandate and will continue to monitor and document any human rights violations, incitement to hatred and violence, or attacks on U.N. peacekeepers.”
The U.N. mission in Ivory Coast had reported earlier that masked gunmen in military uniform had opened fire on the U.N. mission’s base in Abidjan. No one from the U.N. was injured.
The U.N. mission says peacekeepers will continue to protect civilians and the Abidjan hotel that serves as Mr. Ouattara’s headquarters.
A spokeswoman for former rebel forces supporting Outtara, also guarding the hotel, told VOA Saturday that barricades set up by Gbagbo supporters have blocked off access to the hotel and they are running out of food.
Speaking to Radio France International Saturday, Ouattara’s prime minister and former rebel leader, Guillaume Soro, said the U.N. mandate in Ivory Coast, which is set to expire Monday, should not only be extended, but also strengthened. He said people will continue to die if the international community does not intervene rapidly.
The U.N. Security Council is set to discuss the situation in Ivory Coast on Monday.
On Thursday in Abidjan, rebel fighters loyal to Ouattara exchanged fire with the army amid violent protests in which at least 20 people were killed.
ECOWAS and the African Union have suspended Ivory Coast. The United States and France have threatened sanctions if Mr. Gbagbo does not step down.
Original electoral commission results said Ouattara won the Nov. 28 run-off election with 54 percent of votes, but the constitutional court, which is led by a Gbagbo ally, annulled 10 percent of ballots as fraudulent and proclaimed Gbagbo the winner with 51 percent of votes.