UNHCR calls for urgent resolution of Côte d'Ivoire crisis as tension rises
GENEVA, February 10 (UNHCR) - UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres on Thursday called for an urgent end to the political stalemate which is paralyzing the West African nation of Côte d'Ivoire and provoking violence.
"The political blockade is becoming more deeply entrenched, causing the humanitarian situation to get worse and worse," Guterres said in a statement released from Geneva. "People are very afraid," added the High Commissioner amid rising political tension linked to the presidential election last November.
But the incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo, and his political rival, Alassane Ouattara, have both claimed victory in the November election. There have been sporadic outbursts of violence and tens of thousands of people have been forcibly displaced.
Guterres expressed concern that there were already at least 35,000 Ivorian refugees registered by UNHCR in neighbouring Liberia. He also noted that UNHCR has registered 35,000 internally displaced people in the western part of Côte d'Ivoire who are in dire need of shelter and basic aid.
The refugee agency and other humanitarian organizations are mounting an emergency response to address their pressing needs. A UNHCR-chartered cargo plane arrived in the Côte d'Ivoire capital, Abidjan, on Tuesday night carrying tents to shelter more than 12,000 internally displaced people.
A UNHCR road convoy carrying a further 93 tonnes of aid, including 15,000 blankets, 10,000 sleeping mats, 10,000 jerry cans, 5,000 kitchen sets, mosquito nets and plastic sheeting, was due to leave Accra, in neighbouring Ghana, for Abidjan this week.
The High Commissioner said of the current situation in Côte d'Ivoire, that "we face the risk of a possible massive displacement of Ivorians." He noted that this could also have a negative impact on Liberia, a country recovering from the 1999-2003 civil war, and other countries in the region.
"Given these circumstances, I commend Liberia for its open border policy and the Liberian people who have so generously opened their homes and shared their scarce resources," said Guterres, who also appealed for international solidarity with the Ivorian people and the Liberians who are hosting them.
"Urgent international political action is necessary to resolve the stalemate and restore calm," Guterres said. "All citizens of Côte d'Ivoire should feel secure at home and no longer forced to flee in search of safety."