Gbagbo’s funds cut as Ivorian standoff deepens

* West African central bank blocks funds to Gbagbo

* Pressure mounts in deadly standoff

By Bate Felix

ABIDJAN, Dec 24 (BestGrowthStock) – Incumbent Ivory Coast leader
Laurent Gbagbo faced a cash crunch that could make it tough for
him to continue paying public salaries, after the West African
regional central bank cut his access to funds.

World powers and African states have heaped pressure on
Gbagbo to concede defeat in a Nov. 28 poll to his rival Alassane
Ouattara in a standoff that has killed nearly 200 people and
threatens to tip the country back into civil war.

Ministers from the Central Bank of the West African Economic
and Monetary Union issued a declaration late on Wednesday saying
the bank would no longer recognize Gbagbo’s authority as
president, and that access to funds would only be given to
Ouattara’s “legitimate government.”

The move follows a World Bank decision on Wednesday to
freeze some $800 million in committed financing, adding to
expectations that Gbagbo may soon struggle to pay wages —
including to troops.

Gbagbo’s Finance Minister Desire Dalo did not comment when
reached by telephone late on Wednesday. A spokesman for
Ouattara’s government said the decision by the central bank was
“a very important move toward controlling the economic power.”

Military support for Gbagbo is seen as one of the main
reasons he is able to defy calls to step down.

Ivory Coast’s $2.3 billion bond due 2032 (XS0496488395=R: )
fell nearly a point to a record low on Thursday as investors
worried that the country would be unable to meet a $30 million
bond payment on Dec. 31. [ID:nLDE6BM1IS]

Turmoil in the world’s top cocoa-producing country has also
boosted cocoa prices to recent four-month highs (CCc2: ) (LCCc2: ),
disrupting export registrations and raising the possibility that
fighting could block transport and shipping.

GRAVE BLOCKED

The election in the former regional star economy was meant
to reunite the country following a 2002-03 civil war, but has
instead aggravated divisions.

The United States, the United Nations, the European Union,
the African Union and ECOWAS have all recognised provisional
electoral commission results showing Ouattara as the winner,
with Washington and Brussels issuing sanctions on Gbagbo and his
inner circle.

But Gbagbo has shown no sign of caving in to pressure and
insists he won the election after the Constitutional Court,
which is headed by one of his allies, threw out hundreds of
thousands of votes from pro-Ouattara constituencies.

The standoff turned violent last week after gun battles
broke out briefly between government soldiers and rebels who now
back Ouattara. Residents of pro-Ouattara neighbourhoods have
said masked gunmen are now breaking into homes by night and
kidnapping people [ID:nLDE6BL0P3].

A statement issued by the U.N. mission in Ivory Coast on
Thursday said that masked supporters of Gbagbo armed with rocket
launchers have been blocking a road to Anyama, around N’Dotre,
which it said is “a village outside Abidjan where allegations
point to existence of a mass grave”.

The U.N. Human Right Council issued a declaration of
condemnation on the human rights violations and called for
reconciliation to prevent civil war.
(Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Jon Boyle)

Gbagbo’s funds cut as Ivorian standoff deepens