Election curfew imposed in Ivory Coast

November 27, 2010 12:00 am

, ABIDJAN, Nov 27 – Ivory Coast\’s president imposed a curfew from Saturday night and anxious residents stocked up at shops amid fears of unrest in Sunday\’s presidential election, after deadly violence marred the run-up to the poll.

Anticipating trouble ahead of the curfew, due to come into force from 10 pm, some in the economic capital Abidjan queued at banks and shops to ensure supplies of food and money.

"We are afraid, that\’s why I am getting provisions," said Madeleine Hema, a housewife, pushing a trolley full of goods in a supermarket.

"I\’ve come to take out a bit of money to buy a bag of rice. The price has strangely gone up," said Isabelle Akissi Kouadio, a schoolteacher, waiting in a long queue at a bank.

The curfew would be imposed from 10 pm (2200 GMT) until 6 am (0600 GMT) on Saturday and Sunday and from 7 pm until 6 am each night from Monday to Wednesday.

"The president of the republic (Laurent Gbagbo)… decrees that a curfew is enforced across all national territory" each night from Saturday to Wednesday to "maintain order" in the vote, said the announcement read out on state television.

It added that the curfew would not apply to election staff and campaign officials, UN personnel, international observers and journalists.

Gbagbo\’s rival in the election, former prime minister Alassane Ouattara, has criticised the curfew plan as a ploy to curb the opposition and his supporters warned they would not comply with it.

Gbagbo insisted it was to ensure security.

The presidential campaign ended with noisy rallies Friday, ahead of Sunday\’s vote which aims to end a decade of instability but is overshadowed by bloodshed and lingering tension.

Street violence between rival supporters left one man dead on Thursday in the west of the country.

The mediator in Ivory Coast\’s political crisis, Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore, arrived in Abidjan Saturday.

A statement from Compaore\’s office ahead of the visit said he aimed "to contribute to calming the atmosphere of the election which has become overheated since the start of the second-round campaign."

Gbagbo and Ouattara "should be in harmony so that the verdict of the ballots is accepted by everyone, so Ivory Coast can return definitively to the path of peace," Compaore\’s statement said.

He was due to hold meetings in the afternoon with Gbagbo and Ouattara, as well as other officials, the Burkinabe president\’s aides said.

On Friday tens of thousands of whistling, yelling supporters turned out for separate rallies in the Ivorian economic capital Abidjan, a key electoral battleground for the divided country.

Ivorian and UN forces have bolstered their deployments in case of violence.

Security sources said several people were injured on Friday when fresh clashes broke out between rival supporters in Abidjan before officers intervened and restored order.

The pro-Ouattara RHDP coalition said in a statement it suspected Gbagbo "may be tempted to confiscate power" if he is beaten in the run-off and said it would not comply with the curfew.

The election aims to stabilise what was once west Africa\’s most prosperous country after a decade of political crisis following a 1999 coup and a 2002 civil war that split the nation in two between north and south.

Gbagbo prevailed in Abidjan in last month\’s first-round vote but certain districts such as Abobo are home to Ouattara\’s backers.

Gbagbo, a southern Christian who has held on to power since his term expired in 2005 and is fighting for re-election, won 38 percent of the vote in the first round. Ouattara, from the largely Muslim north, took 32 percent.

Each is now seeking to grab votes from supporters of the defeated first-round candidate, former president Henri Konan Bedie, whose base is in the centre of the country.

Bedie has publicly thrown his support behind Ouattara, but as campaigning ended there was no indication of who had the edge.


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