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Côte d’Ivoire politicians must prevent election violence

Amnesty International today urged Côte d’Ivoire’s presidential candidates to calm their supporters and avoid inflammatory statements, amid outbursts of violence ahead of the country’s second round of presidential elections this Sunday.Police were slow to intervene in clashes that took place last Friday in Abidjan between student groups supporting President Laurent Gbagbo and those backing his election rival former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara, injuring dozens.  “If leaders and candidates continue with inflammatory political goading and fail to rein in incitement to hatred, we fear there is a grave risk of uncontrollable political and ethnic election violence being sparked in Côte d’Ivoire,” said Veronique Aubert, Amnesty International’s Africa Deputy Director.Amnesty International has also learned that leaflets have been circulated encouraging xenophobic violence against the ‘Dioula’ population associated with Alassane Ouattara’s party.‘Dioula’ can refer to any person with a Muslim family name and originating from the north of the country, or from other countries in the region.  “The candidates have been blaming each other for the escalating violence; they must now take responsibility for their actions and call for calm for the sake of their country,” said Veronique Aubert. “Young people and students must be urged by their leaders to peacefully accept the possibility of election defeat.”Amnesty International is also calling on the Ivorian authorities to ensure all citizens are able to participate in the election campaign freely and without intimidation, protecting their rights to peaceful expression, assembly and association.  This second round of Côte d’Ivoire’s  presidential election is taking place this Sunday 28 November after being postponed five times since 2005. This election is expected to put an end to the crisis that began with the September 2002 armed uprising that resulted in the de facto partition of the country between the south, controlled by supporters of President Gbagbo and the north, in the hands of the Forces Nouvelles (New Forces), the movement that came out of the armed uprising.