Evidence grows of deaths tied to votes vs. Gbagbo
“We’re aware of these bodies in the morgues,” Mr. Aboya said. “The chief prosecutor has told us that there will be an investigation, but he’s holding off until things are calmer before proceeding.”
Bodies also have been found on highways, freeway medians and trash heaps and in the lagoons coursing through this palm-lined commercial capital that once was considered among the most stable in Africa.
It has been anything but that since Mr. Gbagbo came to power 10 years ago. He signed an alphabet soup of treaties named after the numerous capitals from Lome to Pretoria to Ouagadougou, where mediators tried to coax Mr. Gbagbo to hold an election. He succeeded in pushing back the election for five years until it finally was held last fall.
In the meantime, a civil war broke out, and the country’s lagoon-side cafes emptied out. The fighting pitted northerners who wanted Mr. Gbagbo out against southerners who supported him.
Now the shores of the glassy lagoon lap up trash. The few cafe clients left are nearly all men because those who could do so sent their wives abroad to shield them from the waves of political violence that crash down on this Italy-sized country every time Mr. Gbagbo feels cornered.
A confidential 2004 U.N. report obtained by the AP detailed the rise of government death squads that in 2002 started carrying out “disappearances” of people seen as threats to Mr. Gbagbo. The U.N. obtained a videocassette showing as many as 200 cadavers strewn across the road in one locality.
There was a ripple of hope when the election finally went ahead, especially after Mr. Gbagbo promised to abide by results issued by the electoral commission. As soon as results began trickling in, however, foreign TV stations were ordered off the air and the head of the commission began receiving death threats.
The first bodies to be registered at one downtown morgue were unidentified. They all appear in the morgue’s records as “Mr. X.”
“They started to shoot, and people started running,” said his cousin, who pieced together what happened from other clients. Mr. Coulibaly was grabbed along with a colleague and put in the truck. “To this day, there is no trace of him … We searched everywhere,” said the cousin, Moussa Coulibaly.
The death squads made repeated trips to Abobo, a majority Muslim suburb that voted in large numbers for Mr. Ouattara. Mr. Gbagbo is an evangelical Christian who is accused of having purged Muslims from the armed forces.
The United Nations estimates that more than 100 people have disappeared and at least 296 have been killed, based on calls to a U.N. hot line from family members. The U.N. cannot investigate because Mr. Gbagbo ordered it to leave the country after it certified Mr. Ouattara’s victory.
The hot line also received reports of a mass grave containing 60 to 80 bodies in the suburb of Ndottre. The U.N. twice tried to get to the site but was blocked by the army, and at one point, military trucks chased the U.N. convoy at high speed. Witnesses later called to say they saw the bodies being moved to the morgue of Anyama, which the U.N. was not allowed to enter.
“The fact that we have been prevented twice from conducting a fact-finding mission in Ndottre and Anyama suggests that there may be some truth in the alleged existence of a mass grave in that area and/or deposit of 60 to 80 corpses at a mortuary in Anyama,” wrote the head of the U.N.’s human rights division in an internal report leaked to the AP.