Côte d’Ivoire: Laurent and Simone Gbagbo under financial sanctions

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The United States has imposed financial sanctions against former Côte d’Ivoire President Laurent Gbagbo, his wife, Simone Gbagbo, and three members of his inner circle, the U.S. Treasury Department said.

The sanctions were announced January 6 by the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which is responsible for the administration of economic and financial sanctions. The office cited recent actions by Gbagbo that threaten the peace and the national reconciliation process in Côte d’Ivoire. The sanctions also targeted three of Laurent Gbagbo’s associates for acting for him or on his behalf: Desire Tagro, Pascal Affi N’Guessan and Alcide Ilahiri Djedje.

Côte d’Ivoire has been in a political crisis since the conclusion of the November 28 presidential runoff election, when Gbagbo and his opponent, Alassane Ouattara, both claimed victory.

As a result of the sanctions, U.S. citizens are prohibited from conducting financial or commercial transactions with the designated individuals, and any assets they hold that are under U.S. jurisdiction are frozen, according to OFAC.

“Laurent Gbagbo continues to demonstrate wanton disregard for the will and well-being of the people of Côte d’Ivoire,” OFAC Director Adam Szubin said. “Today’s designations will isolate him and his inner circle from the world’s financial system and underscore the desire of the international community that he step down.”

Gbagbo’s refusal to accept the result of the runoff election, which was announced by the Independent Election Commission (CEI) and certified by the special representative of the United Nations secretary-general, has created a crisis in Côte d’Ivoire, Szubin said. As a signatory to the 2005 Pretoria Agreement, Gbagbo had pledged to ensure free, fair and transparent elections in Côte d’Ivoire with U.N. participation, a commitment that was reaffirmed in the 2007 Ouagadougou Political Agreement.

“His refusal to accept the CEI’s election results — which have been endorsed by the U.N. Security Council, the African Union, the European Union and the Economic Community of West African States — and relinquish his authority undermines the implementation of these political agreements and threatens the peace and reconciliation process in Côte d’Ivoire,” the Treasury Department said in an announcement.

The U.S. State Department said in a statement that the “citizens of Côte d’Ivoire expressed their will in elections on November 28, electing Alassane Ouattara the new president with 54 percent of the vote. The results were widely declared by accredited, credible international observers to be free and fair.”

“Gbagbo’s efforts to remain in power threaten years of reconciliation and peace-building efforts on behalf of the Ivoirian people,” the State Department said.

The Treasury Department said Desire Tagro has acted as Laurent Gbagbo’s chief of staff since the November election, and he was designated for threatening the peace and national reconciliation process in Côte d’Ivoire and for acting for or on behalf of Gbagbo. Pascal Affi N’Guessan, chairman of the Ivorian Popular Front, a political party founded by Laurent Gbagbo in 1982, has been acting as Gbagbo’s campaign spokesman during the 2010 election season and its aftermath, and Alcide Ilahiri Djedje, previously Côte d’Ivoire’s permanent representative to the United Nations, was selected as Gbagbo’s minister of foreign affairs, Treasury said.

“Tagro, N’Guessan, and Djedje have all served as official representatives of Gbagbo since his refusal to stand down and have resisted international calls for a democratic transfer of power,” the Treasury Department said.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told reporters in New York January 6 that the United States, the European Union and others have taken steps to block the designated Ivorians’ ability to travel and move resources and assets.

“We think that kind of pressure is warranted given the continued refusal to accept and act on the will of the Ivorian people,” Rice said. “And certainly in the case of the U.N. we have a sanctions regime, they exist on Côte d’Ivoire, and to the extent that this remains stalled, I think we are obliged to look at whether it needs to be augmented and invigorated.”

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