France has called for a United Nations inquiry into violence in Côte d’Ivoire, as the military denied responsibility for Thursday’s killing of six women in Abidjan. Five African leaders are to return to the divided country in an attempt to broker peace between outgoing president Laurent Gbagbo and his rival, Alassane Ouattara.
“France would like the [UN Security] Council to institute a credible and impartial commission of inquiry under the auspices of the United Nations," foreign ministry official Bernard Valero said Friday.
The US on Thursday condemned the “moral bankruptcy” of Gbagbo’s regime.
And UN human rights boss, Navi Pillay, said she was “extremely concerned about the increasing violence and human rights abuses” and would submit a report to the council before its session closes on 25 March.
The UN’s military chief Alain Le Roy told the Security Council that the army, which is loyal to Gbagbo, had opened with heavy machine guns on a demonstration by women in the northern Abobo neighbourhood of Abidjan, causing a number of deaths.
But the military on Friday denied responsibility and said it was not operating in Abobo.
The pro-Gbagbo press blamed “rebels” supporting Ouattara, who has been recognised by most foreign countries of this year’s presidential election.
The latest violence has forced hundreds to flee Abobo and violence in the west has caused a rise in the number of refugees fleeing into neighbouring Liberia.
The UN refugees agency, the UNHCR, has suspended plans to build a refugee camp in the west due to security fears, although the agency says that it is still operating in the western city of Guiglo.
UN officials say that roadblocks outside its office in Abidjan hinder access to the needy.
A panel of African leaders met in Mauritania on Friday before going onto Côte d’Ivoire in a new attempt to mediate.
The UN was forced to recognise Wednesday that it had wrongly accused Belarus of arming the Gbagbo regime.