ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Many people in Abidjan, Ivory Coast’s largest city, had no access to state television on Sunday after a transmitter was damaged in fighting between forces loyal to incumbent Laurent Gbagbo and rival groups.
RTI state television in the world’s top cocoa grower has backed Gbagbo in a three-month struggle for power with Alassane Ouattara after a November 28 presidential election which U.N.-certified results showed Ouattara won.
The overnight clashes were the latest in the pro-Ouattara neighbourhood of Abobo. A separate advance by rebel forces in the west of the country has prompted fears of a return to civil war in the once-prosperous African state.
“The clashes took place around the transmitter ... this morning you can see smoke coming out of the transmitter centre,” said local resident Doulaye Ouattara (Eds: no relation), adding that some youths had pillaged the premises.
RTI television was not accessible by terrestrial aerials in a number of Abidjan neighbourhoods, residents contacted by Reuters said. An RTI journalist who did not want to be named said technicians were working to repair the transmitter.
Estimates for the size of Abidjan’s population range from between three to five million out of a total population of 21 million. Some have access to RTI on satellite.
There was no official confirmation of casualties in the fighting but several witnesses reported what sounded like the use of heavy arms which blew out windows in houses nearby.
Major powers and most African neighbours have recognised Ouattara as president but Gbagbo has refused to step down, citing a decision by the country’s constitutional council to declare the vote rigged and hand him victory.
The crisis has pushed cocoa futures to 32-year highs over supply concerns. The European Union has banned its ships from docking at Ivorian ports and exporters have largely followed a call by Ouattara for a temporary embargo on cocoa supplies.
Other sanctions have paralysed the country’s banking sector, crippling the economy and prompting some analysts to forecast a fall in gross domestic product until the impasse is over.