African Union Suspends Ivory Coast Over Disputed Poll


The African Union has suspended Ivory Coast, following a disputed presidential  election in the West African nation.

AU official Ramtane Lamamra said Ivory Coast would remain suspended until opposition  candidate Alassane Ouattara “takes over” from Laurent Gbagbo.

The UN Security Council earlier said Mr Ouattara had won last month’s poll.

However, Mr Gbagbo, backed by the army, is defying international pressure and  continuing to cling to power.

In a separate development, the US warned that it would consider sanctions against Mr  Gbagbo if he refused to step down.

Mr Lamamra made the announcement yesterday after an AU meeting at its headquarters  in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Mr Lamamra said the decision had been taken by the council of the 53-nation bloc,  describing Mr Ouattara as “a democratically elected president”.

Earlier, West African regional bloc, Ecowas, also suspended Ivory Coast.

The move is largely about prestige, but if these measures are backed by the West  African Central Bank – which is yet to respond to a request from Mr Ouattara to gain  control of the Ivorian government accounts held there – it would make it very  difficult for Mr Gbagbo to keep control of the state, BBC reports.

Last Thursday, Ivory Coast’s Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) declared that Mr  Ouattara had won the 28 November run-off by 54.1% to 45.9%.

But after Mr Gbagbo and his supporters alleged the ballot had been fraudulent in  some northern regions, the Constitutional Council – run by Mr Gbagbo’s ally -  overruled the Commission.

The council said Mr Gbagbo had secured just over 51% of the vote.

Both Mr Gbagbo and Mr Ouattara have since sworn themselves in and named their rival  Cabinets, heightening tension in the country.

Mr Ouattara – who has the backing of the US and France among other nations – is  operating from a luxury hotel in Abidjan, guarded by UN peacekeepers. His power does  not extend much further than the perimeter walls of the hotel.

However, Mr Gbagbo – who seems determined to hold on to power in the face of all  opposition – must at least recognise that almost every international organisation,  government and financial institution recognises his rival as the winner of the  elections.

He adds that there remains a real potential for violence, with thousands of unarmed  militia and rebel soldiers allied to each side.

The election was intended to reunify the world’s largest cocoa producer after a  civil war in 2002. The north is still under the control of the New Forces rebels who  support Mr Ouattara.

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