Monday, March 7, 2011

Ivory Coast rebels seize control of 30-mile strip

By RUKMINI CALLIMACHI, and  Rukmini Callimachi, Associated Press


ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast – The government of the democratically elected president of Ivory Coast confirmed Monday that rebels allied with their leader had seized control of a nearly 30-mile corridor along the country's border with Liberia following an intense weekend battle.

The seizure of Toulepleu on Sunday afternoon extends the gains made by the rebel army, which earlier had seized another town called Zouan-Hounien. Both towns have historically been controlled by Laurent Gbagbo, the country's strongman who is refusing to cede power even though the country's election commission declared opposition leader Alassane Ouattara the winner of the Nov. 28 vote.

At the beginning of the three-month standoff, Ouattara distanced himself from the northern-based New Forces rebels known by their French acronym, FN. His entourage argued that he did not want to be seen as having taken the country by force when he had won the election, according to both the country's electoral body and the United Nations which certified his victory.

In recent weeks, however, his administration has acknowledged the role of the rebels who are making inroads including in the commercial capital of Abidjan, where a section called PK-18 is now fully under Ouattara's control and where checkpoints are manned by young men who openly acknowledge being members of the FN force.

Ouattara's defense spokesman Capt. Leon Kouakou Alla, a former captain in Gbagbo's paramilitary police unit, said the town of Toulepleu is strategically important because it was from there that Liberian mercenaries were being recruited to fight for Gbagbo.

It was considered a difficult area to take because the town's garrison includes a Katyusha rocket launcher capable of firing multiple rockets at a time.

"After yesterday's combat, the republican forces loyal to the president of the republic took the town," he said. "The recruitment of mercenaries used to be carried out from Toulepleu from a little place called Pekan-Ouebly ... The importance of this is that now that we have occupied this place we have cut off Gbagbo's rear base."

There was no immediate response from Gbagbo's camp. Saah Nyuma, the deputy director of the Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission, said he heard the sounds of explosions coming from Ivory Coast. At least one mortar shell fell on the Liberian side of the border during the fighting on Sunday.

Analysts fear Ivory Coast's political crisis following the disputed presidential election will spill over into a civil war that could reach across neighboring countries. During Liberia's civil war, Gbagbo backed the MODEL rebel group against warlord Charles Taylor, and there are persistent reports that Gbagbo has brought Liberian mercenaries to the capital to help him fend off an international force.

Ouattara has been recognized as the rightful winner of the race by governments around the world, but has been unable to leave the grounds of an aging resort hotel, where he is boxed in by soldiers loyal to Gbagbo.

The 65-year-old Gbagbo has indicated he will stop at nothing to hang on to power. Nearly 400 people have already been killed, most of them civilians who voted for Ouattara. Untold dozens have been "disappeared" by Gbagbo's death squads, human rights groups say.

And last week, the army opened fire on an all-women's march calling for Gbagbo to step down. A gruesome video of the killings which was made available to The Associated Press caused a shockwave when it was disseminated. At one point, a badly wounded woman attempts to lift herself up on one arm, only to collapse into a pool of her own blood.

"We were appalled last week when we saw the video," said Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson, the State Department's top diplomat for Africa during a meeting with reporters in London on Monday.

"This is an attempted seizure of power by the leader who was thrown out at the ballot box and is using political thugs and thuggery to maintain his continued domination," said Carson. "What we are trying to do through political and diplomatic pressure and economic sanctions is prevent a civil war."

For the first two months after the contested election, Ouattara appealed to the international community, asking them to mount an armed intervention to oust Gbagbo. When it became clear there was little stomach for that kind of maneuver, the rebels allied with Ouattara began moving into the commercial capital, especially the Abobo and Anyama districts on the city's northern fringe, both areas that voted in large numbers for Ouattara.

Fierce fighting broke out there late last month as Gbagbo's military attacked Abobo with heavy artillery. There were so many bodies that the morgue could no longer put them all in refrigerated vaults and the AP saw stacks of rotting corpses on the morgue's floor.

But the neighborhood helped by FN rebels as well as by soldiers that had defected from Gbagbo's army fought back. An entire swath including all of PK-18 and most of neighboring Anyama are now under Ouattara's sway, with checkpoints manned by rebels and residents loyal to him.

Among the soldiers who quit the army and joined Ouattara inside the fortified Golf Hotel is the government's new military spokesman, Alla, a former captain in Gbagbo's paramilitary police unit.

"I made a Republican choice. I did not choose a person," he told the AP by telephone on Monday. "There was an election. There was a result. I am a soldier in the service of the Republic. And I decided that I needed to respect the rules of democracy."

Associated Press writers Marco Chown Oved in Abidjan, Ivory Coast; Jonathan Paye-Layleh in Monrovia, Liberia and Meera Selva in London contributed to this report.

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Inside Liberia with Bernard Gbayee Goah

Everyone is a genius

Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. – A Einstein

Drawing the line in Liberia

Crimes sponsored, committed, or masterminded by handful of individuals cannot be blamed upon an entire nationality. In this case, Liberians! The need for post-war justice is a step toward lasting peace, stability and prosperity for Liberia. Liberia needs a war crimes tribunal or some credible legal forum that is capable of dealing with atrocities perpetrated against defenseless men, women and children during the country's brutal war. Without justice, peace shall remain elusive and investment in Liberia will not produce the intended results. - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Men with unhealthy characters should not champion any noble cause

They pretend to advocate the cause of the people when their deeds in the dark mirror nothing else but EVIL!!
When evil and corrupt men try to champion a cause that is so noble … such cause, how noble it may be, becomes meaningless in the eyes of the people - Bernard Gbayee Goah.

If Liberia must move forward ...

If Liberia must move forward in order to claim its place as a civilized nation amongst world community of nations, come 2017 elections, Liberians must critically review the events of the past with honesty and objectivity. They must make a new commitment to seek lasting solutions. The track records of those who are presenting themselves as candidates for the position of "President of the Republic of Liberia" must be well examined. Liberians must be fair to themselves because results from the 2011 elections will determine the future of Liberia’s unborn generations to come - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's greatest problem!

While it is true that an individual may be held responsible for corruption and mismanagement of funds in government, the lack of proper system to work with may as well impede the process of ethical, managerial, and financial accountability - Bernard Gbayee Goah

What do I think should be done?

The situation in Liberia is Compound Complex and cannot be fixed unless the entire system of government is reinvented.
Liberia needs a workable but uncompromising system that will make the country an asylum free from abuse, and other forms of corruption.
Any attempt to institute the system mentioned above in the absence of rule of law is meaningless, and more detrimental to Liberia as a whole - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's Natural Resources
Besides land water and few other resources, most of Liberia’s dependable natural resources are not infinite, they are finite and therefore can be depleted.
Liberia’s gold, diamond, and other natural resources will not always be an available source of revenue generation for its people and its government. The need to invent a system in government that focuses on an alternative income generation method cannot be over emphasized at this point - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia needs a proper system
If Liberians refuse to erect a proper system in place that promotes the minimization of corruption and mismanagement of public funds by government institutions, and individuals, there will come a time when the value of the entire country will be seen as a large valueless land suited on the west coast of Africa with some polluted bodies of waters and nothing else. To have no system in place in any country is to have no respect for rule of law. To have no respect for rule of law is to believe in lawlessness. And where there is lawlessness, there is always corruption - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Solving problems in the absence of war talks

As political instability continues to increase in Africa, it has become abundantly clear that military intervention as a primary remedy to peace is not a durable solution. Such intervention only increases insecurity and massive economic hardship. An existing example which could be a valuable lesson for Liberia is Great Britain, and the US war on terror for the purpose of global security. The use of arms whether in peace keeping, occupation, or invasion as a primary means of solving problem has yield only little results. Military intervention by any country as the only solution to problem solving will result into massive military spending, economic hardship, more fear, and animosity as well as increase insecurity. The alternative is learning how to solve problems in the absence of war talks. The objective of such alternative must be to provide real sustainable human security which cannot be achieved through military arm intervention, or aggression. In order to achieve results that will make the peaceful coexistence of all mankind possible, there must be a common ground for the stories of all sides to be heard. I believe there are always three sides to every story: Their side of the story, Our side of the story, and The truthBernard Gbayee Goah


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