Youth flock to join Gbagbo's army
Fervent backers of Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo streamed to enlist in his armed forces yesterday as the UN faced pressure to protect civilians in soaring post-election bloodshed.
Gbagbo, who refuses to cede power after disputed November polls, is seeking to quash efforts by fighters backing internationally recognised president Alassane Ouattara to seize the economic capital Abijdan.
Several hundred youths waited in front of the headquarters of the army chief of staff Monday to sign up.
Ble Goude, Gbagbo's fiery youth minister known as "The General of the Streets" for his ability to stir up crowds, urged young men to join the fight on Saturday.
A spokeswoman for Ouattara said the call to arms was a sign of Gbagbo's increasing desperation.
But observers questioned the training and weapons to be supplied to the recruits, who are unfamiliar with military discipline or the law of war, including the protection of civilians.
Fears have heightened of civil war in the world's top cocoa producer amid escalating post-election violence which the UN estimates has killed at least 440 people.
Gbagbo's forces have been blasted for possible crimes against humanity for mortar attacks which killed up to 30 civilians on Thursday in a market in Abobo, an Ouattara stronghold that has become the epicentre of the violence.