Gbagbo supporters rush to join army

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The Independent Online

Thousands of youths – supporters of Ivory Coast's Laurent Gbagbo – answered a call to join the army yesterday, adding fuel to a violent power struggle that risks renewed civil war.

Around 400 Ivorians have died and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes in a dispute over the presidential vote on 28 November, which UN-certified results showed was won by Gbagbo's rival Alassane Ouattara, the rebel-backed candidate.

Gbagbo, who says the result was fixed, remains in control of the army and on Saturday the leader of his "Young Patriots" youth wing urged them to sign up for military service.

Chanting slogans like: "We will kill them now" and "The rebels will die", prospective recruits gathered at a stadium at army headquarters in Abidjan to sign up. The large turnout underlines the growing influence of Youth Patriot leader Charles Ble Goude, who on Saturday called on around 10,000 supporters at a rally to "liberate" the country.

Ble Goude, who is also Gbagbo's minister for youth despite being under UN sanctions, is accused by rights groups of inciting attacks on Ouattara supporters, UN peacekeepers and West Africans living in Ivory Coast. He denies the charges. On Sunday thousands joined an exodus from Abidjan, the main city in the world's top cocoa grower, crowding onto buses with their belongings and heading for the countryside.