A man in a balaclava provides security at a rally this week of supporters of Ivory Coast opposition leader Alassane Ouattara in the Abobo district of Abidjan.
While the world’s attention is focused on the uprisings in North Africa, West Africa’s Ivory Coast teeters on the brink of civil war in the wake of an election that saw outpolled President Laurent Gbagbo refuse to cede power. —JCL
The men wear roughly improvised balaclavas, some plain black, others patterned with skulls and crossbones. One is clad in a heavy-duty jacket that bears the circular logo of CND. They have fashioned a checkpoint out of battered car doors lined up across the road.
This is the gateway to the “autonomous republic of Abobo”, usually one of the most populated suburbs of Ivory Coast’s commercial capital, Abidjan. It has in effect declared independence from the disputed presidency of Laurent Gbagbo. Now a lawless place of terror, bloodshed and desperation, it typifies the slow-motion implosion of a country into a failed state.
No one is safe in Abobo. Women were slaughtered in a hail of machine-gun fire at a demonstration. Men have been beaten and burned alive because they were judged to belong to the wrong tribe or nationality. UN peacekeepers have been shot at and western journalists have been roughed up and threatened with lynching.