00:00 GMT Standard Time - Tuesday 12 December 2000
An update from the situation in the Ivory Coast
Abidjan, the capital of Cote d’Ivoire, was torn apart by two days of rioting on 4-5 December in which as many as 50 people may have been killed, and Christians and ethnic southern Ivorians were deliberately singled out for horrific personal attacks. The fighting began when thousands of supporters of the ethnic northern Muslim-based political party the RDR took to the streets in violent protest at the decision of the Supreme Court to ban their Muslim leader Dr Alassane Dramane Outtara from standing in parliamentary elections. Barricades of timber, rocks and burning tyres were set up and the RDR’s Muslim supporters, armed with guns, swords, machetes and clubs, and chanting “Takbir Allahu Akhbar” (Allah is Great), systematically stopped residents in the streets. All Christians and other non-Muslims were harassed, beaten or stabbed. Many, including several school children, were killed, some beheaded, others burnt alive. Other gangs of Muslim RDR supporters launched attacks upon police stations and government offices. Several police officers and soldiers were killed. Security forces raided mosques where they found caches of guns, swords and ammunition. (12 December 2000)
By 6 December most of Abidjan was calm. However, in the majority-Muslim north of the country, the heartland of RDR support, the conflict and violence have continued and many are now fearing a northern Muslim versus southern Christian civil war. Some Muslims are calling for the north to secede and set itself up as an Islamic Republic with Dr Outtara as its President. In the cities of Kong and Kombala the local governors and civil servants have been forced to leave town, and in Kong the flag of neighbouring Muslim-majority Burkina Faso has been put up. In Boudiali the governor’s offices have been destroyed. Across the north churches have been burnt down and Christians and southerners have been threatened and intimidated, their homes looted and vandalised. On Friday 8 December sermons were preached in many mosques calling for the secession of the north, following which polling stations were attacked and damaged so badly that 29 of 32 districts in the north failed to hold the planned parliamentary elections on 10 December.
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