Rival Presidents Each Sworn In After Disputed Ivory Coast Election


The electoral commission head announced incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo was beaten by the opposition candidate, Alassane Ouattara, only to have the country's Constitutional Council declare the announcement invalid.

And despite having a week to issue the final result, an opposition campaign aide is reported to have said that Ouattarra will not accept rejection of the poll victory by the Constitutional Council.

John James is in the main city Abidjan, he updated BBC Focus on Africa's Peter Ndoro.

Ivory Coast's election was supposed to reunify and stabilize a country that recently fought a bitter civil war. Instead, there was a bizarre standoff Saturday: rival presidents inaugurated in dueling ceremonies and different electoral bodies promoting different winners.

The U.S., United Nations and European Union say that opposition leader Alassane Ouattara won. But the Ivory Coast army is backing the incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to give up power when the country's electoral commission announced he'd lost.

It didn't take long for the Constitutional Council, headed by one of Gbagbo's close allies, to overturn the commission's results. And thus the twin swearing-in ceremonies Saturday.

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The election and its chaotic aftermath laid bare the ethnic and regional tensions in the central African nation. Ouattara's support base is in the Muslim north, a region held by rebels and divided from the south from the start of the civil war in 2002 until a peace accord in 2007. Gbagbo is strong in the south.

With the country on a knife's edge and analysts warning of a slide back into civil war, the African Union has called an emergency summit meeting.

But although the African Union has always taken a strong stance against coups, it has a poor record in sorting out disputed elections in which presidents refuse to accept defeat.

The group's usual formula, used after disputed recent elections in Kenya and Zimbabwe, is a unity government that allows the president to stay in office and retain command of the military, while the opposition leader occupies a subordinate position such as prime minister.

The compromises may succeed in averting civil war, but they also create little incentive for any defeated ruler in Africa to stand down. And they tend to create divided, paralyzed governments in which neither side trusts the other.

Former South African President Thabo Mbeki, who mediated the unity accord last year that saw Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe cling to power, has been appointed by the AU as a mediator to sort out the crisis and plans to fly to Abidjan on Sunday.

Even if there is a unity government deal in Ivory Coast, the country may face international isolation and possible U.N. sanctions.

Taking the oath of office wrapped in an Ivorian flag Saturday, Gbagbo said he would not allow interference from other countries in Ivorian affairs.

"I will continue to work with all the countries of the world," he said, "but I will never give up our sovereignty."

Source: latimes