Gbagbo’s Forces Attacking UN in Cote D’Ivoire

In case you missed it, be sure to read Peter Yeo’s guest post showing how —  so far —  UN Peacekeepers are helping to hold the line in Ivory Coast and prevent an all out civil war.

His piece becomes all the more relevant with news of several attacks against peacekeepers yesterday.  This is from The Guardian.

[UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay] denounced an attack that left three UN peacekeepers injured when their patrol was ambushed by forces loyal to Gbagbo in Abidjan on Tuesday evening.

“I am very concerned because the UN contingent that went to investigate allegations of killings was fired upon,” said Pillay, a former UN war crimes judge from South Africa. “So what we all hoped for, a negotiated settlement, stands at grave risk to me because Mr Gbagbo is arming his supporters who in turn are going around killing and also ambushing a UN contingent.”

Claims of another attack on the UN have emerged. A witness who declined to be identified said students loyal to Gbagbo had set up a makeshift roadblock in the Riviera II neighbourhood of Abidjan and forced a UN vehicle to stop.

They dragged the driver out of the four-wheel drive and beat him while another group smashed the vehicles windows and set it on fire, the witness said. Riviera II is a Gbagbo stronghold.

Make no mistake: Gbagbo is trying to intimidate the UN peacekeeping force, known as UNOCI, out of doing its job.  And it is worth noting that he has strategic reason to do so: about 800 peacekeepers are guarding the Golf Hotel in which the internationally recognized president of Cote D’Ivoire has sought refuge. They are bringing in food, water, and medicine to the hotel, around which Gbagbo’s forces have enforced a blockade. UN Peacekeepers are literally keeping Gbagbo’s opponent alive.

The Security Council has approved an additional 2,000 peacekeepers for UNOCI. But it will take some time for re-enforcements to arrive.  In the meantime, we can expect more attacks against the UN.

The best thing the international community can do right now is show support for UNOCI. More specifically, to support countries that have placed their troops in harm’s way.  If a troop contributing country decides that it cannot sustain casualties, the mission may be doomed. On the other hand, if the international community gives its full support to UNOCI, the peacekeeping mission can continue to offer some breathing space while a diplomatic or political solution to the presidential standoff takes hold.