Ivory Coast minister predicts power-sharing

2010-12-08 12:54

The foreign minister appointed by Ivory Coast’s incumbent president who refuses to step down said he thinks the political crisis will end in a unity government, though the UN maintained there was only one winner – the opposition candidate.

“This will finish in a power-sharing arrangement,” Alcide Djedje said late Monday, hours after he joined Laurent Gbagbo’s cabinet. The international community says Alassane Ouattara won the poll. Both men have taken oaths of office and formed governments in the West African nation.

Such signs of rapprochement, while encouraging, are surprising coming from Djedje, who days earlier publicly threatened to expel the country’s United Nations representative on national television. He said if UN envoy Choi Young-jin continued to call Ouattara the winner, he would be asked to leave the country.

Choi told the UN Security Council late Monday that there was “only one winner” of the recent presidential election – Ouattara – and urged the UN to take action against Gbagbo to safeguard the result of the vote.

Also Monday, a regional bloc of 15 countries in West Africa suspended Ivory Coast’s membership and warned Gbagbo to yield power immediately to Ouattara.

But Djedje noted that while Ouattara has international support, Gbagbo holds power locally. Gbagbo retains exclusive access to the presidential palace, state television and is believed to control the security forces.

“The calls by (US President Barack) Obama and (French President Nicolas) Sarkozy to support Ouattara – what does this give him on the ground?” Djedje said. “Nothing!”

It is unclear what the international community can do if Gbagbo refuses to step down. If he does not go voluntarily, removing Gbagbo would require a military intervention since he appears to have the backing of his own army.

But Ouattara’s camp said it believed international pressure would erode Gbagbo’s authority.

“You can’t exist in a globalised world totally isolated and looking inward,” said Ouattara spokesperson Patrick Achi, who is also the minister of infrastructure. “Each day that passes, the pressure mounts more on them than it does on us.”

He said the Ouattara campaign planned to exercise its power to recall Gbagbo’s ambassadors and replace them.

Once considered an African success story, Ivory Coast’s economy was destroyed by the 2002/2003 civil war. Gbagbo, who was president when the war broke out, failed to hold elections in 2005 when his term expired because armed rebels still controlled the northern half of the country.

The country remained in political deadlock, with repeated outbursts of fighting, until 2007, when a deal was signed by all the parties paving the way for the election.

In the three years that followed, the ballot was rescheduled at least six times, with Gbagbo complaining over technicalities regarding the voter roll and the makeup of the electoral commission.

The standoff has many worried that Ivory Coast may return to war. For several nights, residents in pro-Ouattara neighbourhoods say they heard sporadic shooting and at least 20 people have been shot to death since the contested election, according to Amnesty International.?

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