Gbagbo Sworn In Amid Fears Of Civil Strife
Amid reports of more deaths in fresh violence sparked by the standoff, Gbagbo had the ceremonial chain of office hung around his neck after his high court allies overturned a UN-certified victory for his rival.The United Nations and other world powers have recognised opposition leader Alassane Ouattara as the west African country’s new president after last Sunday’s run-off vote, but incumbent Gbagbo refused to step aside and told outsiders to mind their own business.
“In recent days I have noted serious cases of interference,” he said in a speech at the presidential headquarters after being sworn in before a roomful of whooping supporters.”I am charged with defending our sovereignty and I will not negotiate on that,” he said. “I wish various people would pull themselves together.”
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on Gbagbo to cede power to Ouattara, and International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn indicated Saturday the fund would not cooperate with a Gbagbo government.
In his speech Gbagbo urged Ivorians to “work with all the countries of the world in friendship but never let yourself be made a vassal to any country or any institution.”
Gbagbo’s supporters in recent days have fanned the embers of lingering resentment against foreign interference, notably against the country’s former colonial ruler France, with some yelling anti-white slogans in the streets.In his oath of office, Gbagbo, who has held on to power since his term expired in 2005, swore “to protect the rights and freedoms of citizens and conscientiously fulfill the duties of my office for the greater good of the nation.”
Two people were killed when security forces opened fire overnight in the main city of Abidjan during clashes between local supporters of the rival candidates, residents told AFP.At least 17 people have now been killed since last week in election-related violence.
After a nightly curfew passed, angry young Ouattara supporters hit the streets of Abidjan for a second day on Saturday, setting fire to tyres and lumps of wood and putting up barricades, AFP correspondents reported.
The election aimed at ending a decade of conflict in the west African country, the world’s top cocoa producer, which was split in two by a civil war in 2002. Ggagbo’s move risks keeping Ivory Coast dangerously divided.In a key manoeuvre Saturday, Prime Minister Guillaume Soro, leader of the former rebel New Forces that control the north of the country, recognised Ouattara as president and offered him his resignation, speaking at a news conference.
The Independent Election Commission named Ouattara the winner on Thursday, but it was promptly overruled by the head of the Constitutional Council, a Gbagbo supporter, who cited vote-rigging in Ouattara’s strongholds in the north.Ouattara, a former prime minister, declared his victory on Friday and urged “all the institutions, notably the armed forces, the gendarmerie and the police, to uphold their mission to protect people and property.”
But military leaders later appeared on state television apparently pledging allegiance to Gbagbo.
The military has sealed the country’s borders and jammed foreign news broadcasts, but a curfew imposed in Abidjan apparently failed to prevent the overnight shooting in the southern Port-Bouet district, where a French military base and the airport are located.Soldiers were deployed on foot and in vehicles with mounted guns in Abidjan, while armoured vehicles from the UN peacekeeping force in the country guarded the hotel housing Ouattara’s campaign base, where Soro also spoke to reporters.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned of ongoing instability and called on Gbagbo “to do his part for the good of the country and to cooperate in a smooth political transition.”EU Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso on Saturday also hailed Ouattara as “the legitimate winner” and called on the political players “to refrain from any act of violence.”