Security forces loyal to the incumbent leader who refuses to give up power opened fire in Ivory Coast, on Tuesday, killing at least one person, as military chiefs from neighbouring nations met to plan a possible armed intervention to depose Laurent Gbagbo.
The shooting broke out early in the morning in the neighborhood of Abobo, the largest district of this commercial capital with more than one million residents. Most residents in Abobo voted for opposition leader, Alassane Ouattara, who has been internationally recognised as the winner of the recent presidential election.
The gun battle broke out as the army chiefs of staff from 15 nations belonging to the regional Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) met in Mali to discuss a military operation to remove Gbagbo. Such a move is considered a last resort because it could cause mass casualties.
“Virtually every member of ECOWAS has agreed to contribute troops,” said Air Chief Marshall Oluseyi Petinrin of Nigeria, the president of the ECOWAS Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff, at the opening of the meeting. He did not give any further details but said military preparations were “already well underway.”
Any military move will likely involve moving troops and equipment through the north of the country, the region where the opposition leader was born and which is staunchly pro-Ouattara. Gbagbo controls much of the south, including the institutions of power in Abidjan, and experts say it will be difficult to move material and soldiers through either the commercial airport or the port, both controlled by Gbagbo loyalists.
For the past 24 hours, Kenya’s Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, has served as an AU mediator, shuttling between Ouattara and Gbagbo in an attempt to find a resolution to the crisis.
Meanwhile, Britain demanded, on Tuesday, that Gbagbo “go and go now.”
Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, made Britain’s toughest statement yet on the crisis after meeting Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore in London, on Monday evening, to discuss the situation in Ivory Coast.
“I set out the clear position of the British government that former President Gbagbo, having lost the election, should go, and go now,” Clegg said in a statement.