CÔTE D'IVOIRE: Violence in run-up to election

Just days before this weekend's second round of the presidential election, students in Cocody were attacked by young activists from the RHDP political grouping because they did not support the right candidate, according to press reports. Meanwhile, the US Ambassador warned there would be no future scholarships under its Hubert H Humphrey programme "without a democratic election".

The attack on the students took place during the afternoon of Friday 19 November, reported Avenue 225 of Abidjan. It started with an altercation between a student and a supporter of the RHDP at a carwash near the students' residence, the Cité Mermoz. The students returned to their residence, and the young activist went to the headquarters of the RHDP.

Soon afterwards a band of RHDP supporters arrived at the residence armed with clubs, catapults and machetes, reported Avenue 225. Their aim was to attack students - in particular the Fesci, the student federation of Côte d'Ivoire - who backed the LMP, the presidential majority party. Violence ensued during the next hour, with several students injured by projectiles.

Alex N'gouan, a geography student at Bouaké, told Avenue 225: "We are on the eve of electoral campaigns of the second round [of the presidential election] and we are seeing this kind of scene. In any event, we shall sleep with fear in our stomachs, seeing that those who attacked could return at any moment."

Notre Voie of Abidjan reported the RHDP supporters were attacking student activists from the Democratic Party of Côte d'Ivoire, the PDCI, who had disobeyed a call to vote for Alassane Dramane Ouattara in the second round of the election, and publicly announced they would vote for the present head of state, Laurent Gbagbo.

Notre Voie said after the invaders failed to enter the grounds of the student residence they withdrew, then called on reinforcements of 'louts' who were probably based at the RHDP headquarters. Riot police arrived and restored order, said the paper.

Notre Voie said there were about 20 casualities, including two police officers, and arrests of two RHDP activists.

Meanwhile, on 18 November at a ceremony to mark the 30th anniversary of the American Hubert H Humphrey scholarship programme in Côte d'Ivoire, the US ambassador Philip Carter III was "very frank" with his hosts, reported Le Nouveau Reveil of Abidjan.

The ambassador evoked the pleasure the embassy had in supporting cultural and educational projects through the programme. "But on the only condition there is a democratic election here in your country. Without an election, no scholarships until further notice," he warned.