As we mentioned earlier this week, the situation in the Ivory Coast is going from bad to worse. Or, more specifically, from political stand-off to a potential mass atrocity event.   One of the worst massacres yet occurred earlier this week, when six women protesters were gunned down by supporters of the illegitimate incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo.  Then, yesterday (international women’s day) women again took to the streets–peacefully–and were again assaulted by Ggbagbo’s forces.

To his credit President Obama addressed these incidents directly in a statement just-released by the White House.

I strongly condemn the abhorrent violence against unarmed civilians in Cote d’Ivoire.  I am particularly appalled by the indiscriminate killing of unarmed civilians during peaceful rallies, many of them women, including those who were gunned down as they marched in support of the legitimately elected President Alassane Ouattara.  Reports indicate that the women were shot to death by security forces loyal to former President Laurent Gbagbo.  On March 8—the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day—we saw pictures of women peacefully rallying with signs that said, “Don’t shoot us”—a strong testament to the bravery of women exercising their right of peaceful assembly.

The United States remains deeply concerned about escalating violence, including the deepening humanitarian and economic crisis and its impact in Cote d’Ivoire and neighboring countries. All armed parties in Cote d’Ivoire must make every effort to protect civilians from being targeted, harmed, or killed.  The United States reiterates its commitment to work with the international community to ensure that perpetrators of such atrocities be identified and held individually accountable for their actions.

As we have said since the election results in Cote d’Ivoire were certified: the people of Cote d’Ivoire elected Alassane Ouattara as their President, and Laurent Gbagbo lost the election. Former President Gbagbo’s efforts to hold on to power at the expense of his own country are an assault on the universal rights of his people, and the democracy that the Cote d’Ivoire deserves. The people of Cote d’Ivoire have extraordinary talent and potential, and they deserve leadership that is responsive to their hopes and aspirations. It is time for former President Gbagbo to heed the will of his people, and to complete a peaceful transition of power to President Ouattara.

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