Sun, Dec 05, 2010 - Page 1 News List

Ivory Coast set to swear in Gbagbo despite poll row

Reuters and AFP, ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast

Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo was due to be sworn in yesterday after his election victory was rejected by world leaders but accepted by the army, raising fears of a power struggle.

The election commission said Alassane Ouattara had won last Sunday’s poll with 54.1 percent, but the top legal body, citing alleged intimidation, scrapped hundreds of thousands of votes on Friday and handed victory to Gbagbo.

Residents of the main city, Abidjan, reported gunfire in several districts overnight and in Port Bouet, near the airport, they heard heavy weapons but could not say who was involved. Unconfirmed reports said two people were killed.

Ivorian Prime Minister Guillaume Soro said yesterday he recognized opposition leader Ouattara as president and offered him his resignation.

“We recognize that Alassane Ouattara is the winner of this election,” Soro, a former rebel who heads the New Forces that control the north of the country, told a news conference, referring to the disputed presidential polls.

“I have asked to go and offer him the resignation of my government and my resignation as prime minister,” he added.

There were protests yesterday in several towns, including Abidjan, but none were on a large scale. The African Union said it would send former South African president Thabo Mbeki to try to seek a solution to the crisis.

World leaders, including US President Barack Obama, the UN and the West African regional body ECOWAS said Ouattara was the clear winner of a poll meant to heal wounds after a decade of division.

The opposition cried foul, pointing out that Paul Yao N’dre, president of the Constitutional Council which reversed the poll result, is a staunch Gbagbo ally.

Ouattara’s party has warned that denying him victory would risk throwing the country back into a north-south conflict.

Former rebels, who control the northern half of the country where the votes were canceled, also backed a Ouattara win, apparently scuppering any chance this election will bring peace and reunification.

Gbagbo’s camp has rejected outside pressure, threatening to throw the UN’s top envoy out of the country.

State television showed the head of Ivory Coast’s armed forces pledging allegiance to Gbagbo.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy called Ouattara’s win “incontestable.”

Such comments are likely to play into the hands of Gbagbo, a master at whipping up anti-French sentiment who has accused the former colonial ruler of backing Ouattara.

Demonstrators set up roadblocks and burned tires in Abidjan, but there were no mass protests. Before the poll, the military threatened to be “merciless” with anyone causing trouble.

In Bouake, the main city in the rebel-run north, hundreds took to the streets and tires were burned.

“We want [Ouattara] as president. We don’t want Gbagbo anymore. We are tired of him,” Samba Diakite said.

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