Pro-Gbagbo forces shell market in Côte d’Ivoire, killing at least 25 – UN

Displaced people in western Côte d'Ivoire queue up for relief items

17 March 2011 – The United Nations peacekeeping operation in Côte d’Ivoire expressed outrage today after armed forces allied to the defeated president Laurent Gbagbo shelled a market in a neighbourhood of the commercial capital, Abidjan, killing 25 to 30 people and wounding dozens more.

The mission, known as UNOCI, reported that it has since sent a robust patrol accompanied by human rights experts to the Abobo district of Abidjan, where the attacks were reported.

At least six projectiles were filed by pro-Gbagbo forces on and around the market, the mission said.

“The authors of these abusive acts, which constitute flagrant violations of human rights, will not remain unpunished,” UNOCI noted in a press statement, adding it reserved the right “to take appropriate measures” to prevent such acts in the future.

More than 400 people have been killed since last November’s election, which the UN certified was won by opposition leader Alassane Ouattara. Mr. Gbagbo has refused to leave office and his forces have engaged in fierce fighting with pro-Ouattara forces.

Earlier today, UN officials called for more resources to deal with the humanitarian crisis in Côte d’Ivoire, as hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced by the post-election violence and tens of thousands have been forced to flee across the border into Liberia.

“Additional funding is needed so that the magnitude and scale of this crisis can be dealt with,” Ndolamb Ngokwey, the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Côte d’Ivoire, told reporters at UN Headquarters.

“What is very clear is that we need a significant scale-up in terms of effort and funding to be able to deal with the situation,” added Mr. Ngokwey, who is also the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the country. “With the increased violence in the last 10 days we are beginning to see more challenges in terms of having access to the vulnerable population,” he said.

The number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in western Côte d’Ivoire is currently estimated at 45,000, with another 10,000 people having moved in with host families after fleeing their homes, Mr. Ngokwey said. In Abidjan, the number of IDPs has risen to 300,000 and could go up to 450,000, he added.

An initial appeal launched in January seeking $32 million to respond to the humanitarian crisis in is expected to be 45 per cent funded by the end of the week, Mr. Ngokwey said, cautioning that the amount of funds required is out of date as it does not reflect the recent deterioration of the situation. A revised appeal is being prepared, he added.

Speaking at the same news conference, Moustapha Soumare, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Liberia, said the influx of Ivorian refugees into Liberia is threatening that country’s own tenuous democratic and development gains as it emerges from years of conflict.

“We have more than 90,000 refugees who have crossed the border,” said Mr. Soumare, adding that an estimated 40,000 of the refugees arrived over a three-day period in the past week.

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