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Violence escalating in Ivory Coast


Ivory Coast families flee their homes in the Abodo suburb of Abidjan. There has been heavy arms fire in Abobo for two days and an earlier attack killed at least 25. The attacks are by supporters of Laurent Gbagbo, the president who lost the November election and who refuses to give up power, against supporters of Alassane Ouattara, who won the election.


Issouf Sanogo

Violence in Ivory Coast has worsened in Abidjan, the country's biggest city.

The suburb of Abobo has had two days of attacks by supporters of Laurent Gbagbo, the president who lost the November election but refuses to give up power. His followers are blamed for mortar attacks which have killed more than 25 people in Abobo on March 17 and 18. Abobo is known as a bastion of support for Alassane Ouattara, who won the poll.

The United Nations expressed shock over the attacks on civilians.

Gbagbo has given conflicting messages. He has called on his supporters to "neutralize" rebels, which is widely seen as an incitement to the violence that has hit Abobo. But Gbagbo has also said he is open to negotiations with Ouattara.

The long-running crisis in Ivory Coast is taking a human toll and is hurthing the country's economy, which was just beginning to recover from the civil war of 2002-2005. The fallout from Ivory Coast is spreading beyond its borders as thousands of refugees flee the violence. Ivory Coast's crisis is also having a serious impact on the West African region's economy.

The International Monetary Fund warns of "serious risks" from the power struggle in Ivory Coast, reports Reuters.

The IMF "expressed deep concern that the ongoing political crisis in Ivory Coast poses serious risks — in particular, through trade and financial sector linkages — and that the spillovers for the region could be severe should the crisis persist," the IMF said.

The fund's report on the eight-nation West African Economic and Monetary Union also cautions that rising global food and fuel prices could fuel inflation and hurt the region's poor.

It is the IMF's first analysis of the economic impact from Ivory Coast's political stand-off on the rest of the region, which also includes Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo.

Ivory Coast is the world's top cocoa grower. While it is still the giant of the economic zone, Ivory Coast's share of regional output has fallen from 45 percent in the 1980s to 30 percent now, after years of economic stagnation.

The international community has called for Laurent Gbagbo to step down as Ivory Coast's president, declaring that he lost a Nov. 28 election to rival Alassane Ouattara.

The IMF said the crisis in Ivory Coast had intensified in recent weeks with "significant negative fallout for domestic financial and economic activity."

If not resolved soon, the turmoil could have "severe human and financial costs" for Ivory Coast's neighbors, the IMF said, noting that the region had made a turnaround since 2009 during the global financial crisis.

"Political stability in the region is a precondition for the recovery to continue," the IMF said.

It said that with a quick and peaceful solution in Ivory Coast, the region's economy could expand at a 4.3 percent clip in 2011, and above 5 percent in the medium term.