Allies of the man who the world says won Ivory Coast’s disputed presidential election have called for a immediate general strike until his defiant rival concedes defeat and leaves office.
It was the latest form of pressure to force Laurent Gbagbo from the presidency nearly a month after the United Nations said his political rival Alassane Ouattara won the run-off vote.
Gbagbo has refused to leave despite international calls for him to be ousted and West African leaders say they will remove him by force if he fails to go.
Djedje Mady, the head of Mr Ouattara’s electoral coalition, said it called on “all Ivorians and those who live in Ivory Coast and believe in peace and justice to cease all their activities on Monday, December 27 2010, until Laurent Gbagbo leaves power”.
The United Nations has said at least 173 people have been killed in violence over the vote, heightening fears that the country once divided in two could return to civil war.
The toll is believed to be much higher, though, as the UN mission has been blocked from investigating other reports including an allegation of a mass grave.
“The government of Ivory Coast denounces the lack of objectivity and balance in the procedures carried out by the UN Human Rights Council,” said Emile Guirieoulou. He said that at least 36 of the victims were police or other security forces who “were targeted by gunfire coming from the protesters”.
Guirieoulou also claimed that thousands of refugees arriving in Liberia had fled violence perpetrated by rebels who supported Mr Ouattara.
The UN refugee agency says at least 14,000 people have fled the violence and political chaos in Ivory Coast, some walking for up to four days with little food to reach neighbouring Liberia. At least one child drowned while trying to cross a river.