The United Nations today intensified its diplomatic moves over Côte d’Ivoire, where outgoing President Laurent Gbagbo insists he won last month’s elections despite UN certification of his rival Alassane Ouattara as the clear victor.
At UN Headquarters in New York the Security Council discussed the issue while in the Nigerian capital of Abuja, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative Y. J. Choi briefed an extraordinary summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on the elections, which were a key step in efforts to reunite a country split in two by civil war in 2002.
The summit endorsed Mr. Choi’s certification of Mr. Ouattara as president-elect, called on Mr. Gbagbo to “yield power without delay” in the best interests of his country, and hailed the UN’s “key role” in the conduct of the elections under democratically acceptable conditions.
“Considering the distance Côte d’Ivoire has travelled, ignoring the will of the Ivorian people at this stage would be a let down of the people of Côte d’Ivoire and a waste of significant resources invested over the past eight years by the international community,” Mr. Choi told the Council by video link from Abuja before it went into closed session.
Mr. Choi’s certification of Mr. Ouattara last Friday as the newly-elected president followed the declaration of his victory by Côte d’Ivoire’s Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) in the 28 November run-off vote, giving Mr. Ouattara 54.1 per cent of the vote to 45.9 per cent for Mr. Gbagbo.
The result he obtained as certifier of the elections was clear, Mr. Choi said: “There was one winner with an irrefutable margin.”
But the head of the country’s Constitutional Council declared the IEC announcement null and void, citing irregularities in Mr. Ouattara’s northern base where it cancelled returns from four regions, and it proclaimed Mr. Gbagbo the winner.
Mr. Ban, who endorsed Mr. Choi’s certification, has been in close contact with African leaders, including President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso, who has played a leading role in efforts to bring stability to Côte d’Ivoire’s, Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan, current ECOWAS chairman, and President Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi, African Union (AU) chairman
He also discussed the situation with the Chair of the AU Commission, Jean Ping, when the two met today on the sidelines of the UN climate change conference in Cancún, Mexico. He underlined the important role of the AU in resolving the situation in Côte d’Ivoire, and reiterated the need to respect the will of the Ivorian people, according to Mr. Ban’s spokesperson.
In his briefing to the Council, Mr. Choi noted that internal divisions within the IEC had been exacerbated by security forces and stressed that even disallowing all the cancelled votes would not undo Mr. Ouattara’s victory.
Speaking to a closed session of the ECOWAS summit, he reviewed the measures taken by the UN mission in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) to reach an objective certification of the results.
The West African country, the world’s largest cocoa exporter, was split by civil war in 2002 into a Government-controlled south and a rebel-held north. UNOCI, with a current strength of over 9,000 uniformed personnel, has been supporting reunification efforts, of which November’s vote, already delayed five years, was a principal step.