Hundreds of protesters clash with police in Ivory Coast

Body found in trash bin may be opposition figure's

February 03, 2003|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast - In their biggest protest since this West African nation's civil war began five months ago, hundreds of opposition supporters clashed with police yesterday after the discovery of a body thought to be that of a key opposition figure.

Supporters of the opposition Rally of the Republicans said the body of Kamara Yerefe, a popular comedian known as "H," was found in a trash bin near an auto junkyard early yesterday. Yerefe, a northern Muslim, was a key political figure in the party.

Yerefe's family accused paramilitary police of assassinating him. A Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said agents of the internal security service had picked up Yerefe on Saturday night.

Police said the body had not been identified.

Rioters stormed through Abidjan's crowded Adjame neighborhood, building barricades and burning tires. Police fired tear gas and shots in the air to disperse the demonstrators, who set a bus ablaze in the middle of a highway.

The protests came a day after more than 100,000 pro-government supporters rallied against a French-brokered power-sharing deal that gives rebels control over the powerful Defense and Interior ministries.

Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo is under pressure to renounce the accord he signed, and there were indications yesterday that he might do so.

"The renegotiation ... is inevitable," Gbagbo's top adviser in Europe, Toussaint Alain, told French television.

The United States, France and West African leaders have mounted a last-ditch effort to save the accord, which is seen by many as the best hope to end a conflict that has killed hundreds and displaced an estimated 600,000 in the world's largest cocoa-producing nation.

"The United States believes that this framework ... offers new hope for an open, transparent and democratic resolution in Cote d'Ivoire," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer in a statement Friday.

The civil war has split the nation along ethnic and religious lines, pitting predominantly northern Muslim against southern Christians.

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