Ivory Coast on knife edge

Ten­sion rises as pres­i­den­tial elec­tion re­sult is in doubt

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - WORLD -

ABID­JAN: The UN mis­sion in Ivory Coast re­fused yes­ter­day to ap­prove Lau­rent Gbagbo’s re-elec­tion as pres­i­dent say­ing the true re­sults showed his ri­val Alas­sane Ou­at­tara was the vic­tor.

Sig­nalling the start of con­certed diplo­matic moves to iso­late Gbagbo, UN di­plo­mats said Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Ban Ki­moon and the UN’s 15-mem­ber Se­cu­rity Coun­cil also backed pro­vi­sional re­sults that gave Ou­at­tara vic­tory with a 54.1 per­cent score.

Ear­lier, Ivory Coast’s Con­sti­tu­tional Coun­cil – led by a staunch Gbagbo ally – up­held his com­plaints of vote-rig­ging in the rebel-held north and de­clared him the re-elected pres­i­dent.

But UN mis­sion chief YJ Choi, who is re­quired un­der peace agree­ments made af­ter the coun­try’s 2002-2003 civil war to sign off on the elec­tion re­sult, an­nounced that he did not recog­nise Gbagbo as the win­ner.

“The re­sults of the sec­ond round of the pres­i­den­tial elec­tions as an­nounced on De­cem­ber 2 by the elec­toral com­mis­sion do not change, con­firm­ing that can­di­date Alas­sane Ou­at­tara won the elec­tion,” Choi told re­porters.

“Even if all the com­plaints made by the pres­i­den­tial camp were taken into ac­count … the out­come of the vote as pro­claimed by the CEI (elec­toral com­mis­sion) would not change, with Alas­sane Ou­at­tara be­ing the win­ner.”

The an­nounce­ment raises nu­mer­ous ques­tions about how far the world body, which has a around 10 000 peace­keep­ers and po­lice in the coun­try, would be pre­pared to go if Gbagbo in­sists on re­main­ing in power de­spite huge in­ter­na­tional pres­sure.

Al­lies of Ou­at­tara warned ear­lier of dire con­se­quences if the Con­sti­tu­tional Coun­cil, headed by Gbagbo party ally Paul Yao N’dre, over­turned the pro­vi­sional re­sult – a move he an­nounced min­utes later on state tele­vi­sion.

“We will not recog­nise any de­ci­sions by the con­sti­tu­tional coun­cil taken un­der such con­di­tions,” Amadou Gon, a se­nior mem­ber of Ou­at­tara’s cam­paign, told a me­dia con­fer­ence.

A sec­ond Ou­at­tara aide warned of the con­se­quences of over­turn­ing the re­sults.

“By do­ing that they will ce­ment the di­vi­sion of the coun­try … If Yao N’Dre does it he will be to blame for the next war in Ivory Coast,” said the aide, Jean­not Ahous­sou.

Yao N’Dre can­celled votes from four re­gions in the north of the world’s top co­coa grower, giv­ing Gbagbo 51 per­cent of the to­tal vote.

The an­nounce­ment pro­pelled co­coa fu­tures higher, with the March con­tract up more than two per­cent as the ris­ing threat of un­rest trig­gered mar­ket fears of dis­rupted sup­plies from the world’s top grower.

The AU group­ing is­sued a state­ment say­ing it was “deeply concerned” by de­vel­op­ments in Ivory Coast.

The long-de­layed elec­tion has re­opened north-south di­vi­sions in the West African coun­try, with re­ports of up to 16 peo­ple hav­ing been shot dead by se­cu­rity forces in vi­o­lence since the run-off.

Rebel forces in the north had in prin­ci­ple agreed to dis­arm as part of the peace process be­fore the vote but they re­main in con­trol of the north and many have not given up their weapons. – Reuters

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