BRENNAN LINSLEY/ASSOCIATED PRESS
From Oct. 2000: Ivory Coast political rivals Alassane Ouattara, left, shakes hands with newly sworn-in Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo in Abidjan.
From Oct. 2000: Ivory Coast political rivals Alassane Ouattara, left, shakes hands with newly sworn-in Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo in Abidjan. BRENNAN LINSLEY/ASSOCIATED PRESS
The European Union says Ivory Coast's president, Laurent Gbagbo, and his wife have until the weekend to leave power or face sanctions, including possible prosecution under international law. Reuters quotes French President Nicholas Sarkozy saying "There's no other solution for Mr. Gbagbo but to quit a post he is usurping." Ivory Coast gained independence from France in 1960.
Gbagbo alleges opposition leader Alassane Ouattara stole the presidential election, while the U.S., EU, the United Nations and others recognize Ouattara's victory. But as usual, it always boils down to this: Gbagbo has the army and the media. NPR's Ofeibea Quist Arcton is in Abidjan:
So day in, day out, endlessly we are seeing images of Gbagbo's other swearing in at the presidential palace. We're hearing analysts and all sorts railing at the international community, at the U.N., at foreign journalists, saying that we're not the people who are to announce election results. This is a sovereign country and he will defend Ivory Coast sovereignty at all cost.
Gbagbo's history is compelling: as a university professor in late 2000, he campaigned against Ivory Coast's military junta leader in national elections. The U.S. State Department sums up Gbagbo's rise to power, saying junta leader Gen. Robert Guei refused to let the elections proceed, claiming Gbagbo stole votes. Widespread violence broke out and Gen. Guei eventually fled the country while fighting continued:
Hundreds were killed in the few days that followed before RDR party leader Alassane Ouattara called for peace and recognized the Gbagbo presidency.
Ouattara supported Gbagbo a decade ago. Now he and Gbagbo have both taken presidential oaths of office, setting up a showdown that could again turn bloody. Reuters examines how the stalemate could be solved, with civil war a very likely outcome.