ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast – The man who refuses to step down from the presidency ordered thousands of U.N. peacekeepers to leave Ivory Coast immediately on Saturday, calling the global body that has endorsed his political rival an “agent of destabilization.”
The move was the latest act of political defiance by Laurent Gbagbo, who has been in power since 2000 and maintains he is the rightful winner of last month’s runoff vote in the West African nation despite growing international pressure on him to concede defeat.
The statement read on state television came just two days after as many as 30 people were killed in street violence in Ivory Coast. Earlier Saturday, masked gunmen opened fire on the U.N. base; no one from the U.N. was harmed in the attack.
Gbagbo’s spokeswoman said Saturday that the U.N. mission known as UNOCI has not remained neutral in the election dispute and accused it of arming the New Forces rebels allied with opposition leader Alassane Ouattara.
The U.N. certified results showing that Ouattara had won by “an irrefutable margin.” The U.N. had been invited by the country itself to supervise the vote and certify the outcome following a peace accord after Ivory Coast’s 2002-’03 civil war.
In New York, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was concerned about attacks on U.N. troops and that “those responsible for these actions will be held accountable” by the international community.
Ban said the U.N. Security Council would meet Monday to discuss the situation in Ivory Coast and the renewal of the UNOCI’s mandate, which is due to expire on Dec. 31.