Ouattara to take office, as UN searches more mass graves

2011-05-06 13:51

Johannesburg/Abidjan – Alassane Ouattara was expected to officially be sworn in today as the president of the Ivory Coast, following months of conflict.

Constitutional Council President Paul Yao NDre – who late last year had rejected Ouattara’s victory in November elections, setting off months of heavy fighting – changed his decision yesterday, and conceded that former president Laurent Gbagbo had lost.

Gbagbo is currently being held by Ouattara’s forces in the north of the country, after surrendering last month, finally ending the bloody feud, which killed thousands of people and displaced more than one million.

The United Nations announced it was looking into fresh reports of another mass grave in areas of Abidjan, the economic capital, which were held by Gbagbo forces until earlier this week.

Researchers would also look into reports of an attack on a Baptist church which was housing refugees.

Investigators have “received allegations on the existence of a mass grave as well as the possible killing of civilians ... by both sides,” said Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva.

An international commission of inquiry arrived in Ivory Coast earlier this week, tasked with looking into abuses committed during the months of fighting, including attacks on civilians and sexual violence.

Meanwhile, authorities in Switzerland froze assets worth 70 million Swiss francs (about R546.8 million) linked to Gbagbo, who awaits trial for human rights abuses committed during his decade in power.

While Ouattara (69), is being sworn in to take office, prosecutors today will start to interview Gbagbo (65), about his alleged involvement in abuses.

There are still sporadic incidents of violence, as remnants of militias loyal to the former president continue to fight, and European Union aid officials have warned the crisis is not yet over, with hundreds of thousands still in need of humanitarian assistance.

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