ABIDJAN: Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo on Saturday accused UN peacekeeping troops in the country of having “fired on civilians” and said they must leave.
The UN operation in Ivory Coast “ONUCI fired on our citizens, two of our citizens whom you have seen on television, who are now at the Abidjan military hospital,” Gbagbo said on state RTI television.
He was referring to an incident on Wednesday when UN forces clashed with a hostile crowd. ONUCI formally denied that it fired any shots at the mob.
RTI television, which is under Gbagbo's control, had said that a UN patrol fired into the crowd and injured several civilians. Television footage showed people allegedly injured by UN forces.
“It is not the role of UN forces to shoot people, nor is it their role to fight a war,” said Gbagbo. “It is their role to reassure, but, as is happening, they no longer do.”
Gbagbo said it was “not normal” that UN forces would open fire on civilians. “This is why I ask them to leave,” he said.
He also called for 900 French troops who back up the 9,000 UN forces to leave Ivory Coast.
The west African country faced the threat of open conflict this weekend after a New Year's midnight deadline set by Alassane Ouattara for his rival Gbagbo to quit passed unheeded.
Self-proclaimed president Gbagbo vowed not to yield to growing pressure to cede power to Ouattara, the internationally recognised winner of a November 28 presidential election, with both Britain and the United States saying it was time for him to go.
Gbagbo said he had called for the troops' departure through diplomatic channels.
“We will obtain their definitive departure through diplomatic channels but they must leave … if not the number of incidents like this will increase and this we cannot accept.”
Gbagbo had already called for French and UN forces to leave the country on December 18, about three weeks after the election, alleging they were backing his rival Ouattara.
Channel News Asia