World News

U.N. advisers voice "grave concern" on Ivory Coast

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Two U.N. special advisers voiced grave concern on Thursday at developments in Ivory Coast, saying they were especially worried about signs ethnic violence could be brewing in the west African state.

A statement from the U.N. press office said U.N. special adviser on the prevention of genocide, Francis Deng, and U.N. special adviser on the “responsibility to protect,” Edward Luck, said there were signs “some leaders there are inciting violence between different elements of the population.”

“Given the history of internal conflict in Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) such actions are highly irresponsible,” Deng and Luck were quoted as saying in the statement.

“There are continuing reports, so far unconfirmable, of serious human rights violations by supporters of Mr. Laurent Gbagbo and by forces under his control as well as the use of inflammatory speech to incite hatred and violence,” the statement said.

World leaders have stepped up pressure on Laurent Gbagbo to resign as president and hand power over to Alassane Ouattara, widely recognized as having won a presidential election last month. Gbagbo’s camp has rejected the U.N.-certified results that declared Ouattara the winner.

The statement did not directly refer to the possibility of genocide or identify any ethnic groups that might be under threat, though Deng said allegations that the Abidjan homes of political opponents of Gbagbo had been marked to identify their ethnicity were extremely worrying.

Last week Ouattara’s government was unanimously recognized by all 192 members of the U.N. General Assembly.

Ouattara’s newly appointed ambassador to the United Nations, Youssoufou Bamba, warned of possible genocide in the making when he spoke to reporters on Wednesday after presenting his credentials to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

“One of the messages I try to get across during the conversations I have conducted so far (at the United Nations), is to tell we are on the brink of genocide,” he said. “Something should be done.”

The November 28 election was meant to reunite Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa growing nation, after a 2002-3 civil war. But the dispute over the results has provoked lethal street clashes and threatens to restart open conflict.

Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Jackie Frank