2ND ROUNDUP: Ivorian crisis deepens as Ouattara is also sworn in

Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire (PANA) – The 28 November presidential run-off in Cote d'Ivoire was expected to be the final part of the roadmap to re-unify the country and re-establish constitutional democracy.

But as the sun set in the West African state, the citizens were faced with total confusion and fears of chaos and conflict – the two rival presidential candidates were sworn in as president of the country.

President Laurent Gbagbo was the first to be sworn in at the Presidential Palace and his rival Alassane Ouattara followed suit in a hotel.
President Gbagbo, who has the support of the army and gendermarie, brushed aside loud international condemnation of his action as "foreign interference" as he was sworn in.

Ouattara, on the other hand has the support of the United Nations, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and several countries including the US and France.

And as President Gbagbo swore solemnly to respect and faithfully defend the constitution, the African Union (AU) and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) hinted at sanctions against the country.

Prime Minister, Guillaume Soro, has, meanwhile, warned that the situation "threatens the ideal of reunifying the country". He has since resigned and thrown his weight behind Ouattara, the veteran politician and economist.

The army has the sealed land, sea and air borders, a night curfew is in force and several French news organisations have been banned.

President Gbagbo was sworn in after the Constitutional Council overturned the results of the Independent Electoral Commission in the 28 November presidential run-off that gave the verdict to Ouattara.

The president of the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI), Youssouf Bakayoko, under tight security in a hotel in Abidjan, on Thursday declared Ouattara winner of the ballot with 54.1 per cent of the votes.

But the Constitutional Council, which validates election results, on Friday overturned the Electoral Commission's declaration saying it has annulled hundreds of thousands of votes in several key areas in Ouattara's northern stronghold and declared President Gbagbo the winner with 51.45 per cent of the votes.

Paul Yao N'Dre, chairman of the Constitutional Council and a Gbagbo ally, said the irregularities in those northern constituencies invalidated the results. Gbagbo's camp had earlier prevented the Electoral Commission from declaring the result by tearing up the document.

However, the UN Mission in Cote d'Ivoire, the world's largest cocoa producer, does not agree with N'Dre.

Y.J. Choi, the UN Special Representative in Cote d'Ivoire, said after validating results from all 20,000 polling stations, it had found that Ouattara was the winner.

He said even if President Gbabgo's complaints were upheld, Ouattara was still the winner.

He said they went to the source of the vote, analysed all 20,000 tally sheets and verified them one-by-one by several methods, with all pointing to victory for Ouattara.

“...I have one single conviction - by all accounts there is one winner, Alassane Ouattara.”

The President of the ECOWAS Commission, James Victor Gbeho, has said firmly that the sub-regional body would not recognise President Gbagbo.

He said Gbagbo's action was neither legal nor in accordance with the results of the vote that ECOWAS also observed and agreed was won by Ouattara.

Gbeho said ECOWAS had discouraged President Gbagbo from changing the election results and it was “surprised and disappointed” at his attitude.

Leaders of the ECOWAS, who would hold an extraordinary summit in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, on Tuesday, 7 December, to discuss the worsening political situation in Cote d'Ivoire, would invoke sanctions against Cote d'Ivoire, including a suspension.

The Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State, Nigerian President Goolduck Jonathan, and Gbeho had been consulting with leaders in the sub-region on the crisis agreed the meeting and the date.

Meanwhile, the AU on Saturday announced the appointment of former South African President Thabo Mbeki as the chief mediator to the Ivorian political crisis.

The AU said it was monitoring the crisis in the country and could slap sanctions if necessary.

“The Chairperson of the Commission will continue his efforts and closely monitor the developments on the ground, in light of the relevant AU instruments under which all the countries of the continent have committed themselves to democracy, good governance and the respect for human rights,” the AU stated.

The former South African leader would consult the AU Chairman President Bingu Mutharika of Malawi, on how to effectively work out a possible solution to the political crisis in the West African nation.

The AU said the decision to appoint Mbeki followed a meeting of the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) in Tripoli, Libya, on 30 November, 2010, during which the African leaders called for the respect of the results of the Presidential elections in Cote d’Ivoire.

“The President of the Commission of the African Union (Jean Ping) decided, after consultation with stakeholders and partners of the AU, to nominate former President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa to an emergency mission in Côte d'Ivoire,” the continental body said.

“The purpose of this mission, which begins on 4 December, is to facilitate the prompt and peaceful electoral process and the crisis in Cote d'Ivoire on the basis of decisions and instruments of the AU through consultations with stakeholders,” the AU said.

The African leaders meeting at the level of Heads of State and Government in Tripoli on 30 November 2010, stressed the imperative need to respect the will of the people and the outcome of the polls.

“Any other approach risks plunging Côte d’Ivoire into a crisis with incalculable consequences for the country, as well as for the region and the continent as a whole,” the AU said.

The confusion puts the country into direct confrontation with the United Nations and international community which have pumped a lot of human and material resources to reconcile the country and see the election as the final point of that roadmap. Some US$400 million has been spent on the electoral process.

The Ivorian authorities have warned the UN Special Representative about his pronouncements and threatened to throw him out.

The authorities say the UN has no right to declare a winner in election, pointing out that in Cote d'Ivoire, there is only one body that declares election results - the Constitutional Council – and this has declared President Gbagbo the winner.

A full-blown civil war in 2002 split the country into two, with rebels controlling the northern half.
-0- PANA MA 4Dec2010

04 december 2010 19:41:35

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