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Africa Union suspends Ivory Coast

By on December 10, 2010

The African Union suspended Ivory Coast on thursday until president Laurent Gbagbo hands over power to Alassane Ouattara, whom the Au considers the winner of last month’s election.
The United States also added to worldwide pressure on Gbagbo by saying it would consider sanctions against his family if he did not step down.

Gbagbo has declared himself the winner of the election — supposed to draw a line under eight years of division between the north and south — despite provisional results showing that he had lost.
Those results were annulled by the Constitutional Council, a body run by a Gbagbo ally, who upheld his complaints of intimidation in the pro-Ouattara north.
With Ouattara also claiming the presidency from a U.N.-guarded hotel in the main city Abidjan, confusion over who is in charge is fuelling fears of violence.
Ivory Coast was torn apart by a 2002-2003 civil war, and at least 28 people have already died in election-related violence between rival factions and security forces.
The turmoil also threatens to cut Ivory Coast’s lifeline, its world-leading cocoa production, by blocking the export of tens of thousands of tonnes to world markets.

The African Union’s peace and security commissioner, Ramtane Lamamra, said in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa that the AU’s executive council had decided to suspend Ivory Coast “until such time as Mr Ouattara, a democratically elected president, takes over effectively”.
Johnnie Carson, State Department assistant secretary for African Affairs, said Washington was willing to declare sanctions against “President Gbagbo, his family, his wife and those that are supporting his illegal position”.
“The era of stealing elections is over,” Carson said.
The U.N. Security Council and the West African economic community ECOWAS have also recognised Ouattara as the winner of the election and urged Gbagbo to stand down.
Speaking at a village rally, Gbagbo accused the opposition of breaking Ivorian law.
“It makes a mess when you don’t respect the rules,” he said.
“It is rules that distinguish us from animals.” Gbagbo’s camp has condemned what it calls meddling in internal affairs and shown no sign of giving in.
“It’s not for ECOWAS to decide who is winner of an election in Ivory Coast,” said Foreign Minister Alcide Djedje.
Ouattara has appointed rival heads of the cocoa regulator and the customs service, sowing confusion in a sector responsible for one third of the economy.
“We are working with fear in our belly … We don’t even know who should be signing the export papers,” said one exporter, adding that he feared reprisals if he backed the wrong team.


Despite the crisis, life in Abidjan has returned to a semblance of normality, and traffic along the palm-lined roads leading to its once-gleaming business district is near gridlock.
In the northern town of Bouake, whose wilting trees and decaying buildings still bear the scars of the war that left it in rebel hands, legions of hawkers were back on the streets selling snacks and car accessories.
The U.N. Security Council repeated a threat to impose “targeted measures” — code for sanctions.
Possible outcomes range from one rival throwing in the towel — not seen as likely — to a drift back into conflict and de facto partition, with Gbagbo holding sway in the south and Ouattara backed by rebels who still hold the north.
Talks on a unity government such as the one established in Kenya after its disputed 2007 election are a possibility. ECOWAS has advised against this course, saying it may encourage other incumbents to try to cling to power.
The uncertainty means that all bets are off on Ivory Coast’s dream of regaining its place as one of the region’s brightest economic stars — a status coveted by neighbouring Ghana, which will pump its first oil from next week.

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