Despite widespread international condemnation of the overruling of earlier poll results which declared his arch-rival the victor of last week’s election, Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo was sworn in for another term in office Saturday.
Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo was sworn in for another term in office Saturday after world leaders slammed the overruling of earlier provisional poll results that declared opposition leader Alassane Ouattara the winner of last week’s presidential run-off.
At a swearing-in ceremony at the presidential palace in the main city of Abidjan, Gbagbo took office for another five years, ignoring international calls to respect the will of the people.
During Saturday’s swearing-in ceremony, Gbagbo denounced what he called the “terrible cases of interference'' in his country. “I ask my fellow countrymen not call on others to interfere in our affairs, so that our sovereignty is not damaged,” he said.
But even as Gbagbo was being sworn in, EU Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso reiterated the UN position that Ouattara was "the legitimate winner of these democratic elections".
In an unusually strong endorsement of Ouattara, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon congratulated the longtime opposition leader on his poll victory and urged Gbagbo to "do his part for the good of the country and to cooperate in a smooth political transition in the country".
World leaders, including US President Barack Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, echoed Ban’s support for Ouattara.
Tensions have been simmering in the West African nation since the country’s Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) announced Thursday that provisional results showed Ouattara had won Sunday’s run-off with more than 54 percent of the vote.
The country’s Constitutional Council, however, refused to validate the results because they were declared a day after the results deadline expired.
In a televised address to the nation on Friday, the head of the Constitutional Council, Paul Yao N'Dre, overturned the earlier result and declared Gbagbo the winner with 51 percent of the vote.
Soro says he will offer his resignation as prime minister
Ivory Coast’s much-awaited, much-postponed 2010 presidential election had sparked hopes that the once prosperous and stable West African nation could emerge from nearly a decade of civil war and bloodshed that has shattered the cocoa giant’s economy.
Since the 2002 war, the country has been divided into the Gbagbo government-controlled south and the New Forces rebel-controlled north, led by Prime Minister Guillaume Soro, who entered Gbagbo's government under a peace accord.
Soro has largely stayed out of the country’s partisan politics since 2007, when he was appointed prime minister under the terms of the peace deal.
But speaking to reporters in Abidjan Saturday, Soro backed Ouattara as the election winner and said he would offer his resignation.
Reports of fatalities during gunfire exchanges in Abidjan
Violent demonstrations broke out in Abidjan late Friday following the Constitutional Council’s announcement declaring Gbagbo the winner. Ouattara supporters took to the streets in some neighbourhoods, burning tyres, according to the Associated Press.
Two people were killed overnight during heavy gunfire exchanges in Abidjan, according to the AFP. Shooting was heard in the Abobo and Anyama areas in the north of the city. A military source told AFP that a police patrol exchanged fire with an unknown group in the southern Port Bouet area, where a French military base and the airport are located.
Following the 2002 civil war, UN and French peacekeepers have been patrolling the buffer zone between the rebel-controlled north and the south.
In an interview with FRANCE 24 Friday evening, the UN special envoy in Ivory Coast, Young-jin Choi, said that “even if we take into consideration the alleged irregularities brought up by the president, even if we accept them and deduct those votes, the results remain the same. The results still confirm that Mr Alassane Ouattara is the winner of the second round of the presidential election in Ivory Coast.”
Choi’s comments drew a sharp reaction from Alcide Djedje, Ivory Coast’s Permanent Representative to the UN, who is an advisor to Gbagbo. “If he continues like this, we will ask him to leave Ivory Coast,'' said Djedje.
Bitter rivals in a divided nation
In its announcement Friday, the Constitutional Council said it had annulled results in seven regions in the north of the country.
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Gbagbo’s support base is in the southwest region, and the northern half of the country is a Ouattara stronghold.
The two men have been longtime rivals. A northerner and an economist by training, Ouattara was consistently barred from the electoral process since the 1990s. He was finally able to check his own name on a ballot in Ivory Coast’s first round presidential vote on October 31.
But suspicions between the two men persist. "A long and deep-seated rivalry divides Gbagbo and Ouattara,” said Vincent Hugeux, a journalist who writes about Ivory Coast for the the French weekly L'Express, in an interview on FRANCE 24 before Sunday’s run-off vote.
"Gbagbo has never forgiven Ouattara for, if not approving, ordering his imprisonment when [Ouattara] was prime minister. Gbagbo also considers Ouattara the instigator and financial backer of the 2002 rebellion,” Hugeux added.
Date created : 2010-12-04