One person was killed and a dozen were seriously injured yesterday during an opposition protest near Ivory Coast’s main city Abidjan, a local mayor said, two weeks ahead of a contentious presidential election.
Most of the protesters were youths, who had set up roadblocks on the main road to neighbouring Ghana from the town of Bounoua, a onetime stronghold of former first lady Simone Gbagbo.
Another two people died at the weekend during ethnic clashes linked to the election in Bongouanou, fiefdom of opposition candidate Pascal Affi N’Guessan, who said his home was burned down.
The tensions, which already saw around 15 people killed in August and September, have fuelled fears of a conflict on a scale of the one that engulfed the West African state a decade ago.
Also yesterday in Abidjan, students responding to a call for protests from the opposition-aligned Fesci labour union set fire to at least one bus and two cars in the city’s Rivera 2 district, an AFP journalist said.
Security forces clashed with students who had torched cars and barricaded several streets in the Cocody neighbourhood where the Felix Houphouet-Boigny University is located.
Other incidents were reported in the towns of Dabou and Divo, and in the capital Yamoussoukro, according to witnesses and a security source. The regional Ecowas grouping, making a second diplomatic mission to the country in a week, urged the government and opposition to make “considerable efforts” to tamp down the tensions.
The 15-member Economic Community of West African States also urged two opposition parties yesterday to “seriously reconsider their decision to boycott the election, and their call on their supporters to engage in civil disobedience”.
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