ADELE BUTLER – Women of Spirit: Attack on Female Protesters

 

Attack on Female Protesters

 

 

I was shocked when I read about the attack on the female protesters in the Ivory Coast. Thousands of women were protesting because of President Laurent Gbagobo’s refusal to step down when tanks showed up and soldiers opened fire. These women were unarmed. They didn’t stand a chance against these tanks. Seven of the demonstrators were shot—six died on the spot while one died on the way to the hospital. Gbagobo has crossed the line and over “to a new level of horror and barbarism.”

No one imagined that this attack would take place. “Indeed, we anticipated everything short of imagining that one could shoot live rounds at unarmed women, all the more with tanks,” said Patrick Achi, the spokesman for the government of Alassane Ouattara, whom the U.N. said defeated Gbagbo in the Nov. 28 election.

The United Nations says that nearly 400 people have been killed in the three-month-long dispute, though Ouattara’s camp said Friday that total was too conservative and should be closer to 1,000.

Thursday’s deaths were especially shocking, however, because many assumed soldiers would never open fire on women. Sirah Drane, the organizer of the march said that she was holding the megaphone and preparing to address the large crowd which had gathered at a traffic circle in Abobo when “we saw the tanks. There were thousands of women. And we said to ourselves. ‘They won’t shoot at women.’ I heard a boom. They started spraying us. I tried to run and fell down. The others trampled me. Opening fire on unarmed women? It’s inconceivable.”

Thursday’s attack prompted an immediate rebuke from the U.S., which like most governments has urged Gbagbo to step down and has recognized his rival as the country’s legitimate president.

“The moral bankruptcy of Laurent Gbagbo is evident as his security forces killed women protesters,” said U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley in a Twitter message.

In New York, the U.N. Security Council said it is “deeply concerned” about the escalation of violence in Ivory Coast and that it could lead to a resurgence of civil war there.

The European Union’s top diplomat Catherine Ashton called for Gbagbo to cease all violence and cede power to Ouattara (http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110304/ap_on_re_af/af_ivory_coast).

There seems to be an epidemic of leaders who want to hold on to their power even if it is destroying their countries and causing civil wars. And they seem to have no qualms about killing unarmed citizens who have the right to voice their concerns. It is as if we are reliving the same horrible ordeal—we went through it with Tunisia, Yemen, Egypt, Libya and now the Ivory Coast. Democracy is non-existent in these countries and they are run by dictators who are power hungry and don’t care about what is best for the country or its people. A true leader is like King Solomon who prayed and asked God for the wisdom to govern the people.

Laurent Gbagbo became president of the Ivory Coast in 2000, defeating a candidate backed by a military junta that had seized power the year before. His term ended in 2005, but he stayed on amidst lingering rebellion in the country’s north and deep splits in the country’s leadership. He was defeated in an election in November 2010 but has shown no intention of stepping down.

Mr. Gbagbo’s muscular efforts have included assaults by his troops on neighborhoods of Abidjan and deaths among soldiers and civilians in several other districts of the city. Many hundreds have been killed since the election and attacks on civilians are frequent. Mr. Gbagbo has also rebuffed entreaties from neighboring heads of state that he step down, and West African nations have threatened to use military force to oust him if he refuses to leave (http://topics.nytimes.com/topics/reference/timestopics/people/g/laurent_gbagbo/index.html).

Mr. Gbagbo is a thug who uses violence and intimidation to get his way. He has cut the electricity supply in the North where his rival’s supporters are. Security forces who remain loyal to Gbagbo have clashed with supporters of Ouattara, opening fire on the protesters in Abidjan. “Tens of thousands” of residents of the city are fleeing the fighting, according to Amnesty International. “Many of those displaced by the fighting, including women and children, are having difficulty finding shelter and some are sleeping in the open air,” said Veronique Aubert, Africa deputy director of the London-based human-rights group, in an e-mailed statement yesterday (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-03-02/ivory-coast-s-incumbent-president-gbagbo-cuts-power-supplies-to-north.html).

Gbagbo’s rival Ouattara is holed up in a hotel guarded by UN peacekeepers, who are in turn surrounded by troops loyal to Gbagbo’s hard, decade-long rule. The UN, Amnesty International and eyewitness accounts suggest that a terrifying campaign of night-time raids, killings and kidnappings has been unleashed against opposition sympathisers. By last Thursday, up to 200 people may have died, according to the US (http://www.guardian.co.uk/theobserver/2010/dec/26/profile-laurent-gbagbo-david-smith).

Gbagbo needs to step down. The country does not belong to him. It belongs to the people. The people need a leader not a dictator. They need a leader who not only promises a new kind of African leadership but one that makes it happen. “

Adele Butler, A Celebration of Women 2011

 

 

Let us celebrate and remember the seven women who lost their lives fighting for democracy. 

 

Related Article: http://article.wn.com/view/2011/03/04/Attack_on_Ivory_Coast_female_protesters_condemned_4/

 

 

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