Christmas on the Ivory Coast

During our festive season busy with parties and shopping and decorations and family gatherings, news headlines can easily escape notice. Especially when they’re about far away and practically unknown countries with their never-ending political unrest. Trouble is, behind the headlines are a lot of human individuals. And a personal appeal from one of them crossed my desk…

He’s a seminarian friend of my son, a young man he met in the Middle East when they crossed paths a couple of years ago studying in Bethlehem. Now they’re each back at home, but corresponding. The seminarian wrote:

I invite you to pray for peace in my country. You know actually Cote d’Ivoire my country has two presidents, two governments, which is really unbelievable and unaccpetable for the population.
I expect to go to visit my family  in my country for Christmas this week end .
Pray for me, and pray for peace in Cote d’Ivoire.

That was at the beginning of the violence in his country.

Street protests in Ivory Coast against incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo have turned violent with at least four dead. Witnesses said heavy artillery fire has been heard near the base of president-elect Alassane Ouattara, who called for the street demonstrations.

Gbagbo won’t relinquish power to the democratically elected Ouattara. It only grew worse.

At least nine unarmed protesters in Ivory Coast’s largest city were shot and killed by security forces Thursday, eyewitnesses told Amnesty International.

The violence erupted as troops loyal to the incumbent president and supporters of his challenger confronted each other on the tense and chaotic streets of Abidjan.

It grew so grave so rapidly, the US threatened sanctions.

The U.S. is prepared to impose “targeted sanctions” on Ivory Coast’s incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo, the State Department said Friday.

“From the United States’ standpoint, time is running out.” spokesman P.J. Crowley said at a briefing.

The sanctions, according to Crowley, would target “President Gbagbo, his immediate family and his inner circle, should he continue to illegitimately cling to power.”

Violence has broken out between supporters of Gbagbo and of Alassane Ouattara, the internationally supported winner of the November runoff. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Gbagbo’s efforts to maintain his office “cannot be allowed to stand.”

However, Gbagbo wouldn’t budge.

A spokeswoman for incumbent Ivorian president, Laurent Gbagbo, says Mr. Gbagbo will not step down, despite violent street protests and mounting international pressure for him to cede power to U.N.-endorsed election winner, Alassane Ouattara….

The situation in Ivory Coast continues to deteriorate…The political showdown looks dangerously close to reigniting a 2002-2003 civil war that split the country between a rebel-held north and a government-held south.

Both men have set up rival governments and have the support of rival armed forces.

And now Gbagbo is forcing a showdown with the United Nations.

Ivory Coast’s incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo on Saturday ordered U.N. and French troops to leave the country, but U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon rejected the demand, saying his blue helmets would not budge.

Both the United Nations and the former colonial power, France, have urged Gbagbo to concede defeat in a November 28 poll, which was meant to heal the wounds of the West African state’s 2002-03 civil war but has instead reopened them.

This is remote interational news to a lot of Americans, and probably a lot of other nationals on other continents as well. But human rights threatened anywhere affects human rights everywhere, a turn on a statement Dr. Martin Luther King asserted many times.

My son’s young seminarian friend is trying to visit his family this week for Christmas in the Ivory Coast. He is worried and asks for prayers. Please remember them all.


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