Ivory Coast strongman accused of rape

AFP , Thursday 6 Jan 2011

Alassane Ouattara accuses Laurent Gbagbo of recruiting gangs to torture and rape his supporters as the country slides further into violence

Ivory Coast's internationally recognised election winner Alassane Ouattara said Thursday rival Laurent Gbagbo had recruited Liberian mercenaries to wage a campaign of murder and rape against his supporters.

"Laurent Gbagbo has blood on his hands," Ouattara told France's Europe 1 radio in an interview from his beseiged hotel headquarters in Abidjan.

"Many Ivorians have been killed by the mercenaries and militia of Laurent Gbagbo. We already have more than 200 dead, we have rapes and people injured - more than 1,000 people injured.

"Of course, we have proof. And the UN and all the human rights organisations have noted massacres, murders and have attributed these to mercenaries and militias recruited by Laurent Gbagbo," Ouattara said in the interview recorded Wednesday.

UN rights experts said last week they feared reports of widespread post election violence in the Ivory Coast amounted to crimes against humanity.

"I have already written to the Secretary General of the United Nations to ask that the International Criminal Court send an investigating mission to Ivory Coast and I'm told that this will be done in the coming days," Ouattara said.

Accusing Gbagbo of instigating the violence against his supporters, Ouattara said: "He has had his citizens killed by foreigners."

Ouattara is the internationally acknowledged victor of the November 28 presidential election which was supposed to end a decade of unrest which has split the country between north and south.

However Gbagbo, who has been in power for over a decade, has refused to cede the presidency to his rival.

Despite being blockaded inside his hotel by the Gbagbo-controlled army, Ouattara said he was confident he would be able to take power before the end of January.

"I am confident that in the next few days we will have total power," he told the radio, following the latest diplomatic moves by African leaders to persuade Gbagbo to leave office.

"If Laurent Gbagbo insists on staying, he will suffer the consequences. He will by quite simply dislodged and that will be done without any great difficulty," Ouattara said, in a reference to a decision by regional power ECOWAS to use military force if he refuses.

"ECOWAS will do it. ECOWAS cannot make such a commitment and then not do it. I think that ECOWAS also wants a peaceful solution. But it is time that Laurent Gbagbo goes."

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