**UPDATE 1030AM 4/5** UN SAYS GBAGBO IS NEGOTIATING SURRENDER (USA Today)
**UPDATE 3PM 4/4** – Water is cut to most of Abidjan. Power intermittent. The UN has reported that 11 of their peacekeepers were attacked yesterday. In response, the UN has mobilized helicopters and they are reportedly attacking a Gbagbo military camp as well as the presidential palace itself. There are indications now that the French may be joining the UN in more aggressive action. Just so we’re clear here, the UN has actually conducted an attack. According to BBC World “UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon made ‘urgent’ request for French military help in Ivory Coast.” Ouattara’s troops have assembled north of the city with a force of at least 5,000 men and they are planning a final push towards the presidential palace. We can only hope that this ends soon and that the fighting is limited, but the situation looks increasingly dire. Please hold Cote d’Ivoire in your thoughts. You can give to any of the NGOs at the end of this post. If you are on twitter and have connections in Cote d’Ivoire, search for the hash tag #civsocial for information on getting assistance to those who need it.
**UPDATE 5PM 4/3** – Still not heard from friends. Reports from yopougon, their quarter in Abidjan, indicate heavy arms fire going on in the south of the neighborhood and that FRCI fighters have control of the north. Water is cut off to most of Abidjan right now and there are stories of people trying to get water from the lagoon (a very polluted body of water). More than 2,000 Malian nationals are in the Malian embassy right now, trying to take refuge. I’ve been in that embassy. It is tiny. Sarkozy is telling French nationals to assemble for an evacuation. France now has control of the airport, but vehicles heading there, including a UN armed carrier, are being shot at. Thousands of FRCI fighters are apparently getting ready for a final push on the presidential palace. Another long night ahead. More from Washington Post
**UPDATE 9PM 4/2** – Cannot get a hold of friends in Abidjan. Very worried. It appears that Ouattara does not have control over many of the people supposedly fighting on his behalf. Reports of atrocities on both sides. Widespread looting and sporadic killings are being reported in certain neighborhoods and the FRCI (formerly rebels) is being implicated for much of this. It’s also being reported that a force of rebels known as the “Invisible Commandos” (fighting against Gbagbo, but not necessarily in support of Ouattara. Ugh.) released all of the prisoners of Abidjan’s biggest jail, offering to arm them if they would fight on their side.
The news from Duékoué is horrific. It appears 1,000 killed or missing. A picture is circulating on twitter that made me sick. Bodies everywhere. I will not repost. This information is coming from the Red Cross. There is another report that up to 1,000 people may be surrounded by armed men near Duékoué without access to food or water. Where are the journalists? John James from the BBC is in Cote d’Ivoire. Who else? He can’t cover the whole country. Much of what we know in Abidjan is coming from fragmented phone calls and internet messages in Abidjan. There are parts of that city that are completely lawless right now. I pray for my friends who I cannot get a hold of. They are smart and I know they will do everything to ensure their safety, but with reports of people’s homes being burnt to the ground, I cannot calm down.
Say a prayer for Cote d’Ivoire, read this essay, and consider giving to one of the NGOs I have listed below.
**UPDATE 6PM 4/1** – Gbagbo has refused to surrender. He remains in Abidjan in an unknown location. Fighting has continued around the RTI state TV station. There are conflicting reports over who has control. Heavy fighting continues around the presidential palace. Most disturbing right now are reports coming in that at least 800 people were killed in Duékoué on March 29th. It appears this was largely ethnic violence. The involvement of either army is unclear. (Red Cross (french)) Needless to say, the NGOs listed below need help. Doctors Without Borders is right now reporting a severe shortage of medical equipment in Abidjan and the Red Cross is struggling to keep up with the crisis in the west of the country.
**UPDATE** LIVE blog from BBC
Remarkable developments in Cote d’Ivoire. The Republican army, loyal to elected president Alassane Ouattara, have effectively taken over the entire country. They have encountered little resistance. Administrative capital of Yamoussoukro and the important cocoa port town of San Pedro were taken yesterday. All that remains is Abidjan. According to Guillaume Soro, Ouattara’s PM and current head of the military, “Two or three hours and I think it will be finished … the game is over for Gbagbo. It is finished.” (Reuters)
Many members of Gbagbo’s army have deserted and now the army chief, Phillippe Mangou, is officially seeking refuge at the home of South Africa’s ambassador. (BBC).
For more on Republican army advances, read this article in the NY Times.
All of this is good news. Civilian casualties could have been a lot worse and there could have been significantly more fighting between the two forces.
It is likely there will be fighting in Abidjan, however. Gbagbo has said he will not surrender and even if many of his armed forces do, there are now 20,000 new “Young Patriots” who are becoming armed. Amnesty is warning of a potential “human rights catastrophe” in the capital (Amnesty International).
Regardless of what happens in Abidjan, there are still massive numbers of people that have been displaced in the west of the country. Tens of thousands of people are still reportedly trapped in and around a church compound without access to water, food, and medical treatment. It is becoming clear that there were acts of violence committed by both sides in the west. Rumors of Gbagbo hiring Liberian mercenaries are now confirmed: “Ivorian militias and Liberian mercenaries loyal to Laurent Gbagbo killed at least 37 West African immigrants in a village near the border with Liberia on March 22, 2011, Human Rights Watch said today.” This was reportedly a massacre. (Human Rights Watch)
Whether or not there is a humanitarian catastrophe in Abidjan, there already is one in many other parts of the country. If you want to help, there are two things you can do:
1. Give money to one of the NGOs below
– UNHCR – this goes directly to their Cote d’Ivoire page
– Croix Rouge / Red Cross (select Cote d’Ivoire from “Other Operations”)
2. Keep spreading the word
Read my previous post for media contacts. Talk to people. Let them know there is a humanitarian crisis in Cote d’Ivoire.
To follow what is happening right now, the hashtag #civ2010 on twitter is best. It is remarkable how fast things are happening. Even up to the minute news agencies like Reuters have been unable to keep up.
Fingers crossed that Abidjan falls without a fight.