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Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-12-07

Ivory Coast incumbent Laurent Gbagbo is facing mounting pressure to cede power to Alassane Ouattara, with the UN pulling staff from the country and US President Barack Obama calling for the presidency to be left to the “legitimate winner”.

International pressure on Ivory Coast’s incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo to cede power to challenger Alassane Ouattara is mounting amid growing unrest in the country.

The United Nations said it was pulling hundreds of staff out of the country due to the explosive situation, with at least 20 people killed in election-related violence (according to Amnesty International) amid a tense deadlock between the two rivals.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon "remains deeply concerned" and "has been in close contact with many world leaders," spokesman Farhan Haq said.

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama urged Gbagbo to leave the presidency to the "legitimate winner" of the polls in a letter late last week, a senior US official told French news agency Agence France Presse.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said Obama asked Gbagbo to “abide by the results of this election and step aside” or otherwise “face greater international isolation” and “bear the consequences of what is an unjust action."

The European Union added its voice to the growing chorus of international disapproval, threatening sanctions if the crisis is not resolved fast.

Alassane Ouattara - Portrait

Critical West African summit

West African leaders are to meet in a special summit on Ivory Coast's electoral crisis on Tuesday under pressure to help find an exit to the country's political standoff as fears of continued violence intensify.

Ivory Coast leaders have not been invited to the summit of the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Nigeria, even though the country is a member of the organisation.

ECOWAS has already released a firmly worded statement on the crisis condemning Gbagbo and calling for the acceptance of results showing Ouattara winning the election.

The summit comes at a crucial time, following a weekend in which both Gbagbo and Ouattara swore themselves in as president of the west African state -- each naming a prime minister – and former South African president Thabo Mbeki ended mediation talks without any major announcement.

Monday was another day of political turmoil for Ivory Coast, as Ouattara’s team announced it had formed a new government with former Gbagbo prime minister and leader of the New Forces rebels, Guillaume Soro, at its helm.

Interviewed on French radio station Europe 1 Monday, Soro said he hoped that there would be a peaceful solution to the crisis. Asked whether he would be ready to reactivate his forces, which still control the north, to "unseat" Gbagbo, Soro replied: "If he pushes us to it, we'll have no other choice." But Soro insisted he was seeking a peaceful "transition of power."

The electoral commission had shown Ouattara winning with more than 54 percent of the vote. But Gbagbo has been backed by the country’s Constitutional Commission, which declared the incumbent the winner of the election, annulling results in seven regions in Ouattara strongholds in the north.

Curfew extended

Tensions have been high across the West African nation with reports of pro-Ouattara demonstrations breaking out in the northern regions and exchanges of gunfire reported on Monday in Abidjan.

A curfew was extended until Monday, December 13, and will be enforced from 10pm to 5am. The country’s borders - closed since Thursday - were reopened on Sunday night.

Once considered a beacon of West African stability and economic prosperity, Ivory Coast descended into a bloody civil war in 2002.

It was hoped the 2010 elections would bring stability to the cocoa-rich country and restart the Ivorian economy.

Date created : 2010-12-07


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