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Ivory Coast: Power, water cut for millions in the north

Power and water were cut to millions in northern Ivory Coast who allegedly do not support incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo.

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Residents carrying their luggage flee the neighborhood of Abobo PK 18, a suburb of Abidjan, on Feb. 24, 2011. (Issouf Sanogo/Getty Images)

Electricity and water supplies have been cut for millions of people in Ivory Coast's north who traditionally have not supported the incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo, reports the UN and rebel groups.

Gbagbo has refused to cede power to his rival, Alassane Ouattara, whom the international community recognizes as the winner of presidential elections last November. Gbagbo nationalized the electric company after the election.

The national power company said the electricity was cut for political reasons, according to a UN official. A statement from the company said armed men entered the building and ordered the electricity for the entire northern half of the country be cut, "even though no operational need existed and the network was healthy," reports the BBC.

The north has traditionally been opposed to Gbagbo and overwhelmingly supported Ouattara in the elections.

Rural Ivory Coast depends on electricity to obtain well water.

Ongoing clashes between Gbagbo and Ouattara supporters have caused a humanitarian crisis and have led to fears the country may face a full-blown civil war.

"Abidjan, the commercial capital, increasingly resembles a city on the brink of war as AK-47 assault rifles and heavy weapons boom daily through the district of Abobo, the economy grinds to a standstill and thousands of people abandon their homes," reports the Guardian.

"But getting out is not easy. Armed men stopped some 60 families without food or water from leaving a church today, the UN said. There were long queues of government workers trying to cash pay checks."

The power and water cut comes a day after UN experts came under fire in Yamoussoukro for trying to investigate claims that Gbagbo imported attack helicopters from Belarus and thereby broke an arms embargo.

The UN has since apologized to Belarus for falsely alleging it broke an arms embargo.

Peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy said the report which suggested Belarus had been supplying military equipment to disputed President Gbagbo "was a mistake."

-- Hanna Ingber Win

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/110302/ivory-coast-cuts-power-water