Mediators try to intervene in Ivory Coast chaos
ABIDJAN: International mediators tried to intervene Sunday in Ivory Coast's growing political crisis after both candidates in the disputed election said they were now president, raising fears the country could again be divided in two.
In the northern opposition stronghold of Bouake, several hundred people marched down a main boulevard Sunday afternoon, calling for incumbent Laurent Gbagbo to stand down. Villagers wielding machetes also created their own checkpoint in protest along one major road in the region.
"It's important not to have violence, not to return to war - to find a peaceful solution," former South African President Thabo Mbeki said Sunday after arriving in Abidjan to try and mediate at the behest of the African Union. The international community has recognized opposition leader Alassane Ouattara as the winner of the presidential runoff vote held one week ago in Ivory Coast, the world's largest cocoa producer.
That, however, did not stop Gbagbo from defying calls to concede. On Saturday, he wrapped himself in the Ivorian flag as he was sworn in for another term at the presidential palace. Hours later, Ouattara told reporters that he too had been sworn into office. Ouattara then went ahead and named a prime minister. On Sunday night, Gbagbo followed suit and on state TV, the ticker running under the main TV news announced that college professor N'Gbo Gilbert Marie Ake had assumed the post of prime minister. The development effectively set up parallel governments and raised serious questions about who was actually in charge of this West African nation, which was split into a rebel-controlled north and government-controlled south by a 2002-2003 civil war. -Ap