Ouattara pledges to 'reunite Ivorians' at inauguration
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The new president of the Ivory Coast, Alassane Ouattara, in his inaugural speech said he hopes to reunite Ivorians after the "the victory of democracy”, and promised parliamentary elections before the end of the year.
AFP - Alassane Ouattara was inaugurated Saturday as president of Ivory Coast, which he hopes to reunite following a bloody crisis caused by his predecessor's refusal to concede election defeat.
"The time has come to renew the founding values of our beautiful Ivory Coast, and to reunite Ivorians," he said at a ceremony attended by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, President Nicolas Sarkozy of former colonial power France and African leaders.
"Let us celebrate peace, without which there can be no development," said Ouattara, 69, who took the oath of office on May 6 -- about four weeks after Laurent Gbagbo was captured for refusing to cede power following November elections.
A months-long conflict had pitted Ouattara against Gbagbo, who refused to leave office after his rival was declared the winner of November's presidential poll.
Nearly 3,000 people died in the violence that followed the vote, according to the new government, and tens of thousands fled into neighbouring countries.
Gbagbo was captured in an underground bunker in Abidjan on April 11 by forces loyal to Ouattara, backed by France and the United Nations.
"This day is an historic moment for us," said Ouattara, hailing what he called "the victory of democracy".
African Union and UN Security Council envoys, meeting in Addis Ababa, also applauded Ouattara's inauguration in a statement.
Ouattara specifically praised France, "with whom the Ivory Coast shares historic ties and a common vision of the future," he said.
"Mister President Sarkozy, the Ivorian people thank you," Ouattara said to loud applause, also thanking the United Nations.
Sarkozy, the only Western head of state present, offered full support for his "friend" Ouattara.
Hours later, Sarkozy visited a French miltary base in the southern suburbs of Abidjan where he told an expatriate audience that France "will always keep military forces here to ensure the protection of our citizens."
He clarified that any French troop presence in Ivory Coast would involve an "agreement" with the country's authorities, and that the French army would not be "there to ensure the stability of any government."
He also said he "wanted" to believe the two French citizens kidnapped in Abdijan were still alive.
He pledged to spare no effort in the search for Stephane Frantz di Rippelm and Yves Lambelin who were taken from a Abidjan hotel on April 4.
At the inauguration, where Ouattara promised parliamentary elections before the end of the year, thousands sang and danced.
The festivities at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny Foundation, named for the country's founding president, were closely guarded by members of Ouattara's Republican Forces and UN peacekeepers.
Since Ouattara took power after Gbagbo's arrest, Ivory Coast has begun a slow return to normalcy: public servants recently went back to work, schools have reopened, and economic activity has slowly resumed.
But the west African country is still marred by acts of violence, pillaging, and many citizens remain displaced or are living as refugees.
The security situation is notably fragile in the west where pro-Gbagbo Liberian mercenaries are accused of having killed more than 200 people at the beginning of May.
Police and military police have been slow to resume work in Abidjan, which remains under control of the Republican Forces.
Ouattara has promised that no crimes committed since November 28 will go unpunished, no matter who committed them.
He has asked The Hague-based International Criminal Court to investigate the most serious violations.
Violence broke out after the Ivorian Constitutional Council, led by a Gbagbo ally, on December 3 nullified results published by the country's electoral commission, which had in November proclaimed Ouattara the winner with 54.1 percent of the a run-off presidential election.
The council said Gbagbo had won, with 51.45 percent, despite the international community recognising Ouattara as the winner.