African Press International (API)

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Posted by African Press International on May 24, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no source.UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)

Abidjan (Cte d’Ivoire) – The country’s elections will be jeopardised if the government does not rein in members of the Student Federation of Cote d’Ivoire (FESCI), a violent youth group, Human Rights Watch warned on 21 May.

FESCI is “responsible for political and criminal violence, notably murders, aggression, extortion and rape,” HRW said in a statement on 21 May. “The impunity enjoyed by groups like FESCI has got to stop now in order to create a climate conducive to peaceful elections,” West Africa director Corinne Dufka said. HRW’s report linked FESCI violence and presidential elections which are scheduled for 30 November year, and will be a key test of Ivorian leaders’ commitment to peace in the country.

“The impunity enjoyed by these groups must stop now… to create a climate propitious for peaceful election,” the report said. Augustin Mian, secretary-general of FESCI, told IRIN the organisation rejects out of hand HRW’s accusations. “We realise that the means of fighting used in the past by FESCI were not good. But we have turned our back on that now.” FESCI was set up in 1990 and has a history of challenging the government of the day and even leading violent street clashes with the authorities. The organisation has been repeatedly banned as a result.

However many students insist that since 2002, when Cote d’Ivoire was split by a brief civil war, FESCI has transformed into a pro-government militia, with a mafia-like hold on the university that extends to quashing all support for parties other than the President Laurent Gbagbo’s Ivorian Popular Front (FPI).

The UN and national and international human rights groups including HRW have all accused FESCI, which they allege is aligned with President Laurent Gbagbo’s Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), of violence against students who support the opposition. Marcellin Aka, another FESCI official, denied that the organisation has political ties. “We don’t support any political party, and we have no idea how we are supposed to influence the elections,” he said.

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African Press International – API

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