Former South African president Thabo Mbeki arrived in Ivory Coast yesterday to try to mediate an end to a standoff over election results that were meant to resolve a north-south conflict, but now threaten to renew it.
Incumbent Laurent Gbagbo was sworn-in as Ivory Coast president on Saturday, despite the electoral commission declaring his rival, Alassane Ouattara, winner of a Nov. 28 poll.
Ouattara submitted a rival oath to undertake the presidency and said he would start a parallel government.
The Constitutional Council, which has the final word on the poll and is headed by an ally of Gbagbo, cancelled hundreds of thousands of votes in Ouattara strongholds, on grounds of intimidation and fraud by rebel soldiers who run them and declared Gbagbo the winner.
The election result had been certified by UN peacekeeping envoy to Ivory Coast Y. J. Choi, who received copies of the count from almost every polling station.
Choi said that even if all the allegations of fraud were true, they still could not have changed the result announced by the election commission.
The resulting dispute appears to have scuppered efforts to reunify the country.
New Forces rebel commander Cherif Ousmane warned that his followers would “not rest for long without doing something” about Gbagbo if he continues to hold power. He did not specify what that would entail.
The poll was meant to unite Ivory Coast after a war in 2002 and 2003 left its north in rebel hands, but that now appears unlikely.
South African Ambassador Zodwa Lallie said the main aim of Mbeki’s visit was to seek a peaceful resolution to the row, noting similarities with Kenya’s election in 2007, in which a disputed result quickly degenerated into ethnic bloodshed that killed at least 1,300 people and displaced hundreds of thousands.
“A situation like Rwanda or Kenya would be a nightmare, which we are working tirelessly to avoid,” she said.