ABC's Dana Hughes reports:
A leader holding onto power unleashes brutality against his own people; attacking women and children, using military might against unarmed civilians participating in everyday activities. At least 500 people are confirmed dead and nearly half a million are fleeing their homes, fearful for their lives. The UN warns of civil war, possible genocide and a humanitarian catastrophe if more isn't done. But this isn't Libya and the leader isn't Gadhafi. It's Cote d'Ivoire, more commonly known as Ivory Coast.
For nearly four months the international community, including the Obama Administration, have been calling for incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo to accept his loss of the presidential election and step down. Those calls have been met with brutal violence against anyone seen as a supporter of his rival Alessane Outtara. There has been video of tanks firing on unarmed women protesters, pictures of some of the more than 30 people killed when Pro-Gbagbo forces shelled directly into a crowded market, nightly messages on state TV by Gbagbo officials encouraging the youth to arm themselves and attack "the terrorists."
Reports of mercenaries from Liberia crossing back and forth between the two countries show the deteriorating situation in Ivory Coast is threatening to destabilize the whole region, leaving many Ivorians to ask: Where is our no-fly zone?
The Obama administration has put out many statements condemning the violence in Ivory Coast. Just today Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said "Gbagbo’s indiscriminate violence can't be tolerated. All individuals responsible for ordering or carrying out these heinous acts will have to answer for their actions.” She also said the administration has pledged over $12 million dollars to the World Food Program to help feed the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the fighting.
But aside from sanctions and a temporary boycott of cocoa exported from the country, the world's largest producer of the crop, little other action has been taken by the United States and the international community. On friday the New York Times published an editorial saying the world needed to do more to intervene before it's too late. Even a seemingly non-military intervention action like the United Nation's jamming the television and radio signals to stop broadcasts inciting violence would do some good in diffusing the situation, the Times argued. With the crisis escalating more every day, "the international community must move quickly to halt this terror," the Times said.
For Ivorians watching the crisis unfold, next to the attention Libya is getting, there is a feeling that the administration, and the West is willing to stand-by while the country descends into chaos and thousands are potentially killed. Twitter messages in English and French detail what's happening in the country and cry for help. One uses hashtags to Obama, Sarkozy, and various media outlets "S.O.S," @boomshake1 tweets "WE NEED HELP in COTE D IVOIRE GBAGBO KILLED US."
- Dana Hughes