Members of the UN Security Council have finally acknowledged the victory of Alassane Ouattara in Côte d’Ivoire’s presidential election. Sending a clear warning to the outgoing President Laurent Gbagbo, the UN body condemned in the “strongest possible terms” any attempt to overthrow the people’s will, and declared themselves ready to “impose targeted measures”. The talk of war had intensified following incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo’s refusal to hand over power to President Elect Alassane Ouattara.
The 15-member UN Security Council has finally come to an agreement after being held up by Security Council member Russia not to interfere in the Ivorian electoral quagmire. The council now stands ready to impose sanctions on persons who attempt to threaten the peace process, obstruct the work of the UN mission there, or commit serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law
Condemning “in the strongest possible terms” United States’ Brooke Anderson who holds the council’s rotating presidency this month announced
that “In view of ECOWAS’ recognition of Mr. Alassane Dramane Ouattara as President-elect of Côte d’Ivoire and representative of the freely expressed voice of the Ivorian people as proclaimed by the Independent Election Commission, the members of the Security Council call on all stakeholders to respect the outcome of the election”.
The Security Council has declared that it is ready to “impose targeted measures” against those who try to threaten the peace process or to obstruct the work of the UN mission in the country.
Before the announcement, reports had claimed that a rebel group known as New Forces in the west African country’s had said it would attack the Ivory Coast government forces if given the orders, or defend themselves if attacked. The talk of war intensified as incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo refused to hand over power to President Elect Alassane Ouattara.
The rebel group New Forces, which was integrated into the Ivorian military after the civil war that separated the country, is headed by Mr. Ouattara’s Prime Minister, Guillaume Soro who had served as Mr. Laurent Gbagbo’s Prime Minister before the presidential election.
The pro-Outtara New Forces told Reuters they would defend themselves if attacked and will attack if given the orderes to do so.
“We’ve put our troops on alert. If we are attacked we will defend our zones and we will take the rest of the Ivorian territory. However, I hope diplomacy would help the country avoid a bloodbath,” New Forces spokesperson Seydou Outtara told Reuters.
While some analysts have warned that the power struggle between President Elect Ouattara and incumbent President Gbagbo could pit the New Forces rebels against the army despite the presence of the UN 8,000 peacekeepers in the country, others believe that the New Forces rebels will not attack government forces after the African Union, ECOWAS and the international community legitimized Mr. Ouattarra’s government.
Meanwhile observers fear former Liberian warlords are likely to get involved should another civil war break out in the Ivory Coast.
“Some of these people [Former Liberian warlords] have been contacted, according to our intelligence, by people we will describe as ‘unscrupulous people’ who want to cause some problems in the Ivory Coast,” Liberian Information Minister Cletus Seah told the BBC.
Mr. Seah said it was not clear which side the warlords were being asked to back, nonetheless President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf gave a stern warning to former Liberian warlords not to get involved in the Ivory Coast situation.
Both Mr. Outtara and Mr. Gbagbo were sworn in as president last Saturday. UN envoy to Ivory Coast Choi Young-jin has said Mr Ouattara’s victory was “irrefutable”. And the African Union, the US, France and Britain have recognized Mr. Ouattara as the winner urged Mr. Gbagbo to step down.
Earlier on Russia had blocked a UN Security Council statement endorsing Mr. Ouattara as president, saying the UN would be exceeding its mandate if it declared the winner of an election.
It was reported that Russia’s Lukoil was exploring for oil in Ivory Coast under legitimacy from Mr. Gbagbo’s government.
Analysts say it is unclear what the international community can do if Mr. Gbagbo refuses to step down.