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UN Urges End to Violence, Intimidation in Run-Up to Ivory Coast Elections

A police officer gestures next to a burnt out car that was set on fire during protests against a third term for Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara, in Abidjan, Oct. 19, 2020, ahead of presidential elections set for Oct. 31, 2020.

The U.N. human rights office is urging the government of Ivory Coast to restrain its security forces and curb violent inter-communal clashes and political protests in the run-up to Saturday’s presidential elections.

At least 20 people reportedly have been killed in inter-communal clashes and violent confrontations between Ivorian security forces and opposition protesters.

U.N. human rights monitors report that demonstrations between Oct. 17 and 21 in Bongouanou, Dabou, Abidjan and other locations have become increasingly violent.

A spokesman for the human rights office, Ravina Shamdasani, told VOA there has been a worrying uptick in violent crackdowns on demonstrations by security forces and particularly aggressive attacks by unidentified individuals.

“These unidentified individuals are known as microbes who have carried out these assaults, threats, intimidating protesters wielding machetes and knives. There are allegations that the modus operandi of these microbes, as they are called, are known to the state authorities,” Shamdasani said.

Tension was stoked when President Alassane Ouattara said he would seek a third term, which critics say is unconstitutional. That tension has grown as the election draws closer, as has the use of threatening and discriminatory tactics to stifle dissent.

Shamdasani said there is a deeply worrying and persistent use of hate speech aimed at manipulating ethnic differences for political ends.

“Given the history of electoral violence in Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), we appeal to all parties to refrain from using discriminatory and provocative language along ethnic affiliations that could lead to more divisions in society and, ultimately, violence,” Shamdasani said.

Thousands were killed in the aftermath of the 2010 election when then-president Laurent Gbabgo refused to concede defeat to Ouattara.

The U.N. human rights office is calling on authorities to conduct prompt, thorough and impartial investigations into all human rights violations and abuses regardless of political affiliation and to hold the alleged perpetrators accountable.

The agency is appealing for calm in the lead up to the Oct. 31 election and in its aftermath to resolve differences through dialogue.

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