Ivory Coast’s president has been sworn in for another five-year term following a controversial vote that the electoral commission says he lost.
By annulling as fraudulent nearly ten percent of all votes cast, Ivory Coast’s constitutional council overturned results that showed President Laurent Gbagbo losing to former prime minister Alassane Ouattara.
Long-time Gbagbo ally Paul Yao N’Dre leads the constitutional council.
N’Dre told a packed hall at Abidjan’s presidency that Laurent Gbagbo is their new leader. Mr. Gbagbo smiled slightly and nodded, folding his hands over a wide orange sash atop his grey suit.
President Gbagbo took the oath of office, promising to respect and defend the constitution and protect the rights of all citizens for the greater good of the nation.
In his inaugural address, the president said political crises in Africa are caused by people who do not respect the law. That is essential, he says. No country can be strong without respecting laws and procedures.
Mr. Gbagbo explained that Ivory Coast’s electoral commission is only an administrative body charged with conducting elections, not determining their credibility. That, he says, has always been the sole responsibility of the constitutional council, and people who do not understand that do not understand the law.
A 2007 peace deal signed by Mr. Gbagbo says the United Nations must certify all election results. Because the U.N. has certified the original electoral commission results that make Mr. Ouattara the winner, Mr. Ouattara says he is the rightful president.
Among world leaders calling for Mr. Ouattara’s victory to be respected are U.S. President Barack Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and European Union Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso.
President Gbagbo says the last few days have seen what he calls terrible cases of interference. So as not to damage Ivory Coast’s sovereignty, he urged fellow citizens not to call on outsiders to interfere in the country’s affairs.
Mr. Gbabgo says he will always defend the sovereignty of Ivory Coast. That is non-negotiable.
The president spoke confidently at his inauguration, urging Ivorians to work with all the countries of the world in friendship but only so long as those countries respect Ivorian sovereignty.
Outside pressure appears to have little sway over Mr. Gbagbo as there is no appealing the constitutional council’s decision and he is backed by the country’s military leaders.
Armed forces chief General Philippe Mangou lead a group of senior officers to congratulate the president. Mangou says military chiefs came to give him their respect, to pledge their allegiance, and to reiterate their readiness to carry out any mission he gives them.
Former rebels who still control most of the north of the country say they do not recognize President Gbagbo’s re-election and believe Mr. Ouattara is Ivory Coast’s rightful leader.
This vote was meant to reunite the country after a brief civil war. Instead, it appears to be dividing it further as the former rebels now claim a civilian president in Mr. Ouattara who they believe has been duly elected in a U.N.-certified vote.