The situation in embattled Abidjan

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman. This is The World. There was fierce fighting today in Abidjan, the main city in Ivory Coast. Troops loyal to the internationally recognized president, Alassane Quattara, have zeroed in on the home of Laurent Gbagbo. He is the incumbent president who refuses to step down peacefully after losing an election in November. Loud explosions and gunfire could be heard near Gbagbo's residence today. Alassane Quattara himself is urging Gbagbo supporters to abandon their leader and switch sides. But for now, Gbagbo appears to still have enough support to fend off the attacks on his home. And his foreign minister, Alcide Djedje, says Gbagbo is actually willing to talk with his rival:

Alcide Djedje: Let's see the negotiations first, and we will see what is the outcome of these negotiations. But we have ____ a solution, and we just want to sit down and find a way, political way, for, to end this crisis. Mr. Gbagbo is not one who wants to keep the power. We just want to sit down to save lives of the Ivorians.

Werman: The heavy fighting in Abidjan started yesterday when the pro-Quattara forces entered the city. Residents are nervously monitoring the fighting. Ba Coulibaly is a teacher and translator in Abidjan. He told us earlier that in his part of the city the fighting has died down a bit.

Ba Coulibaly: I am in Macorice, which is a very ____ plateau. The place is calmer now compared to yesterday. At the same time we don't have any fight, but we still have people shooting. And we have been experiencing a lot of lootings. But it stopped now, and people can go out, but not very far from the house.

Werman: Are you in any danger?

Coulibaly: No, we feel safe. But we fear people looting. We see a lot of young people trying to enter everywhere they can get something to loot. So it's like a very messy situation.

Werman: What are you doing for food, if you can't really leave your house?

Coulibaly: We stored some simple foods. I think I have enough for two or three days. But we hope the situation will get better on Monday or Tuesday.

Werman: Reports are now saying that Mr. Gbagbo is cornered in a small area of Abidjan. Is that the neighborhood of Plateau you were talking about earlier?

Coulibaly: Yes, yes.

Werman: And are you able, where you are in Macorice, able to get any news out of what's happening in the Plateau area of Abidjan?

Coulibaly: No, it's only news we get from international medias. No one really knows what is happening, but people say that they are still fighting.

Werman: Now, when we spoke with you in the past, Mr. Coulibaly, you said it was hard to know just how safe it was to discuss politics freely with anyone. Is that still the case?

Coulibaly: It depends on the area you have. It's worse in places like Ukorong(???), which is more for Gbagbo. You can easily get burned if they think that you are not following their vision. But in the area I am, it's a little more free, because it's more for Quattara. But we avoid talking about politics outside.

Werman: And when you say it's easy to get burned, if they recognize one as a Quattar supporter, do you mean literally burned, like they would set you on fire or just chase you out of the neighborhood? What do you mean?

Coulibaly: They use tires and burn people alive.

Werman: Have you actually witnessed that, Mr. Coulibaly?

Coulibaly: No, no, because I am not living in such areas. But I heard about that and we saw in news.

Werman: Where you are in Macori in Abidjan, are you seeing any evidence of U.N. or French troops?

Coulibaly: No. I can hear people shooting and I know they are not they. Someone told me that they saw French forces around the supermarket, but they didn't stop people looting. It's like they are very passive, only caring for French interests and French people living in Cote d'Ivoire.

Werman: So I assume that one of the things that people in Macori would like to see is more troops who can control the looting and the rioting right now.

Coulibaly: Yes, yes. We really hope the U.N. forces and French forces, they might help to get the place secured. Maybe not fighting against Gbagbo forces, but making people stop looting and entering into houses. Because people do what they want now because no policeman, no official force is in the street.

Werman: English teacher and translator, Ba Coulibaly, speaking with us from Abidjan. Thank you very much and stay safe, sir.

Coulibaly: Thank you.