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Alassane Ouattara officially confirmed as president

Ivory Coast's Constitutional Council on Thursday confirmed Alassane Ouattara (file photo) as the country's new president. The Council's initial refusal to recognise Ouattara's victory over Laurent Gbagbo triggered five months of violence.


AFP - Alassane Ouattara is set to take the oath of Ivory Coast's highest office Friday after the Constitutional Council said it officially proclaimed him president following the ouster of Laurent Gbagbo.

The swearing-in ceremony will take place at 1600 GMT at the presidential palace in Abidjan, the presidency said, followed by the inauguration ceremony on May 21 in the political capital Yamoussoukro.

"Normally, the swearing-in is done at the inauguration ceremony, but in this case .. the Constitutional Council will fulfill its role tomorrow (Friday)," council chairman Paul Yao N'Dre said after presenting Ouattara, 69, with its decision to proclaim him head of state.

Last year, N'Dre triggered a five-month face-off by proclaiming Gbagbo the winner of November elections.

The electoral commission had by then already awarded victory to Ouattara with a 54 percent majority, a finding supported by the international community. His struggle to secure power turned increasingly violent until Gbagbo was finally arrested in an underground bunker stormed by pro-Ouattara forces on April 11.

As his rival is sworn in, Gbagbo is set Friday to answer investigators' questions in a preliminary probe of possible criminal charges, at a hearing in Korhogo in the north of the country where he has been held since last month.

Gbagbo, 65, will appear before prosecutors and police probing allegations of violence, misappropriation of public funds and incitement to hatred.

More than 1,000 people died across Ivory Coast in the post-poll violence, which also prompted hundreds of people to flee their homes to safety elsewhere in the country or to neighbouring states.

N'dre, who is seen as close to Gbagbo, said the Constitutional Council had decided to approve the "binding" decisions taken by the African Union, which had recognised Ouattara's victory and demanded Gbagbo's departure.

The Ivory Coast is a member of the AU and "international norms and standards accepted by competent national organs are more authorative than those of laws and decisions with internal jurisdiction", he said.

Justice Minister Jeannot Kouadio welcomed the decision.

"The truth of the polls has just been confirmed by the Constitutional Council," he said.

"The journey was long. The international community had closely followed the electoral processes; it is a pity that we took other roads to arrive here," the minister said.

Yopougon, the last district of Abidjan still held by forces loyal to Gbagbo which has a population of more than one million, fell to government troops Wednesday and was devastated after weeks of violence.

Gbagbo's hearing Friday, the first since his capture, had been delayed by two days to allow his lawyers to be present.

"We do not know exactly what Laurent Gbagbo is accused of," Marcel Ceccaldi, one of the ex-president's lawyers, said on the eve of his appearance. "It is a big mess that favours disinformation."

Prosecutor Kouadio Koffi said the investigation concerns acts committed in the four-month post-election crisis and two weeks of civil war that preceded Gbagbo's arrest.

"We have excluded everything that falls within the competence of the International Criminal Court, such as crimes against humanity," Justice Minister Jeannot Kouadio Ahoussou said.

ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said Tuesday he will soon ask for authorisation to launch a formal probe of crimes against humanity in the Ivory Coast.

Gbagbo's wife, Simone, will also appear before prosecutors Friday in Odienne in the northwest Ivory Coast, where she has been held since April 22.

Asked about accusations that Ouattara's forces committed massacres in the east of the country during the conflict, Koffi said: "If suspects are identified, they will be prosecuted."

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