Ivory Coast cease-fire discussions reported after hundreds die
Pro-Gbagbo forces break up protests in Abidjan in February 2011.  Credit: UN, Basile Zoma
Pro-Gbagbo forces break up protests in Abidjan in February 2011. Credit: UN, Basile Zoma

.- While cease-fire negotiations are underway in the Ivory Coast, Vatican charity Caritas Internationalis condemned violence in the country that killed 1,000 civilians over the span of three days.

Caritas called for a “proper investigation” into who is responsible for the massacre that left hundreds dead and missing in the city of Duekoué during clashes from March 27 through March 29.

The Ivory Coast was facing the prospect of civil war, with outgoing president Laurent Gbagbo recruiting thousands of young people to fight on his behalf against domestic and international backers of his rival, president-elect Alassane Ouattara.

As of April 5, however, Gbagbo is reported to have surrendered and called for cease-fire negotiations.

“The war is finished now. It is the end of the war. There is now negotiation,” Gbagbo's foreign minister, Alcide Djedje told NPR.

Although Djedje would not comment on whether Gbagbo is still insisting he is the legitimate president, the ceasefire will halt violence in the country that has already claimed hundreds of lives and forced over 1 million people from their homes.

Accusations have flown over who is to blame over the recent killings in Duekoué, with the United Nations claiming that certain members within Ouattara's militia committed “extra-judicial executions” of more than 330 people in the town.

However, Ouattara's government accused the U.N. on April 2 of allowing its peacekeepers to abandon civilians there to mercenaries fighting on behalf Gbagbo.

Bishop Gaspard Béby Gnéba of Man, told the Vatican-based Fides news agency that in addition to the deaths, local buildings–including Church facilities such as parishes, schools and health clinics–have been looted and destroyed.

Conflict had also moved to the economic capital of Abidjan, as Ouattara–backed by U.N. forces– launched an aggressive effort to seize control of local towns.

“The situation is calm in the sense that the shootings have reduced, but it is a disquieting calm, not at all reassuring. It is very tense,” Archbishop Jean-Pierre Kutwa of Abidjan told Fides.

Archbishop Kutwa expressed shock over the level of assault conducted by forces aligned with Ouattara.

“The people are barricaded in their homes. In some districts they have no water, electricity or food … It is an indescribable tragedy.”

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