Côte d’Ivoire political crisis challenges democracy

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The political crisis in Côte d’Ivoire stands as a challenge to democracy not only in that country but across West Africa and worldwide, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson told reporters January 5, while also praising African leaders and regional organizations for their response to the crisis.

Carson, who was asked to comment on the situation in Côte d’Ivoire while briefing reporters on the January 9 referendum in Sudan, said, “There is no question that the election in Côte d’Ivoire was stolen by President [Laurent] Gbagbo and those around him.” Carson said Gbagbo’s “continued presence in office amounts to a theft of the election.”

In the second round of Côte d’Ivoire’s presidential election November 28, challenger and former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara was declared the winner, having secured 54.1 percent of the vote over incumbent President Gbagbo.

“This is a moment that is critical for the strengthening of democratic institutions and democratic values around the continent,” Carson told reporters. He said the United States has been “extraordinarily pleased” by the statements and actions of the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

“Africa’s regional and subregional organizations have stood up for democracy and for the voice of the people,” he said. “I think this is a sign of the progress that we continue to see in Africa and the commitment of many of Africa’s leaders and regional organizations to support democracy.”

“We believe very strongly that President Gbagbo should in fact leave office, that he should turn over the reins of government to the properly elected president, Alassane Ouattara. He still has an opportunity to accept a number of opportunities that have been put on the table, but the longer that this crisis goes on,” Carson warned, “the chances for those opportunities to remain diminish.”

Before the election, both candidates had agreed to abide by the election results. The Ivorian people had not had an open and transparent election for more than 10 years.

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