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Africa
Ivorians' swearing-in confusion
Opposition leader announces he will have own swearing-in ceremony, as Gbagbo gets sworn in.
Last Modified: 04 Dec 2010 19:21 GMT
 The decision of the constitutional court to reverse the election result over fraud claims sparked angry protests [AFP]  

Cote D'Ivoire is set to see two swearing-in ceremonies following last week's chaotic presidential elections.

The swearing-in ceremony for Laurent Gbagbo took place on Saturday, shortly after 13:30GMT, Al Jazeera's Yvonne Ndege reported from Abidjan. Most foreign ambassadors boycotted the event, but was atteneded "by the cream of Ivorian society," she said.

World leaders have criticised a decision by Cote D'Ivoire's constitutional court to reverse the results of Sunday's vote, warning that it could plunge the country back into civil war. has paved the way for Laurent Gbagbo, the incumbent, to take office on Saturday despite apparently losing the run-off election.

"These last few days have seen terrible cases of interference," Gbagbo said during the ceremony. "I call on my fellow countrymen so that our sovereignty is not damaged, do not call on others to interfere in our affairs."

Despite Gbagbo's bid to officially begin another presidency, Ouattara will be having a swearing-in of his own, his office told Al Jazeera.

But Ndege noted that it wasn't clear who would carry out the opposition ceremony. There is "close to little, if not nothing at all" that he can do to formally take power, she said.

Gbagbo has the support of the military, while Ouattara is backed by the rebels in the north.

The move has outraged Ouattara's supporters, who took to the streets on Saturday to protest the move. Gunfire was heard in the streets and plumes of black smoke hung over Abidjan, the country's largest city, prompting fears that Cote D'Ivoire's tentative peace process could been on the verge of unravelling. Two people have been reported dead on Saturday.

Electoral officials had initially declared Ouattara the winner of the November 28 poll with 54.1 per cent of the vote. But the result was overturned by the court on Friday after hundreds of thousands of votes in areas loyal to Ouattara were thrown out over fraud allegations.

The UN, which is responsible for certifying the election results as part of the peace deal that ended the last bout of fighting in the country, has said that it considers the initial election valid.

The top UN representative in the country said he had "absolute confidence that there is only one winner - Mr Alassane Ouattara".

Speaking during the incumbent's ceremony, Hamadoun Toure, the UN's special envoy, told Al Jazeera that the 9,000 UN peacekeepers who are stationed in the country would be keeping to their existing mandate of "providing peace and security in the country" if violence over the standoff breaks out. Protecting civilians, he reaffirmed, is central to that mandate.

Prime minister to stand down

Guillaume Soro, the country's prime minister has thrown his support behind the opposition leader, declaring on Saturday that he will stand down if Gbagbo was sworn in.

"If he's thinking about resigning, that creates potential problems for Laurent Gbagbo. It also sends a signal to the north about the position that Soro himself is taking," Al Jazeera's correspondent reported.

While some view Soro's stance as being based on the fact that he, like Ouattara, is from the north, Ndege reported that the prime minister is backing the opposition leader principally because he sees him as the vote’s legitimate winner.

"The prime minister Guillaume Soro is a former rebel, and he was brought into government as a prime minister as part of a peace deal, as part of a plan to put the Cote d'Ivoire back on the map and restore its credentials," Ndege said.

International anger

World leaders, including Barack Obama, the US president, have also come out in support of Ouatarra, calling on Gbagbo to respect the will of the people and step down.  

 Laurent Gbagbo will take office on Saturday, despite losing last week's election [Reuters] 

"The international community will hold those who act to thwart the democratic process and the will of the electorate accountable for their actions," Obama said in a statement.

The African Union has called for the government to put the nation first and to accept the election results. "Any other approach risks plunging [Cote D'Ivoire] into a crisis with incalculable consequences for the country, as well as for the region and the continent as a whole,'' the AU said in a statement.

The two candidates represent the two sides that fought a civil war in 2002, and both have powerful armed backers. Ouattara has the support of former rebel fighters in the country's north, while Cote D'Ivoire's military supports Gbagbo. 

"We are ready to carry out any mission that he wants to give us," General Philippe Mangou said on state television, after being shown visiting Gbagbo with other senior officers.

Al Jazeera's Yvonne Ndege, reporting from Abidjan said there had been incidents of violence on the streets in reaction to the court's decision.

We've been talking about the threat of violent protests from the opposition. Its no longer a threat, they now seem to be fully engaged in it," she said. "In the last few minutes we've heard gunfire and there are plumes of black smoke just behind me. What we imagine is that supporters of the opposition have gone on the rampage. The fear now is that things are going to get much worse."

New conflict

Ouattara's aides have warned that if the decision is allowed to stand, the constitutional court will be responsible for "the next war in the Ivory Coast".

Alassane Ouattara won 54 per cent of the vote, but a top court overturned his victory [AFP] 

Sebastian Spio-Garbrah, an Africa analyst, said that the depth of the crisis will depend on whether African leaders present a unified front in dealing with the situation.
 
"If they don't split, and if they can force the two leaders into a room, they might be able to negotiate a national unity government," he said, adding that any deal would have to be made this weekend.  

Gbagbo's last term elapsed in 2005 but he repeatedly postponed the election, claiming first that the country was too volatile and that security could not be assured, and later over technicalities like the composition of the voter roll.

It had been hoped that the poll, the first in a decade, would restore stability to Cote D'Ivoire and reunite a country split into north and south by a 2002 to 2003 war.
 
But that goal appears to be unravelling fast. The country is now under lock down with land, sea and air borders closed by the military, and foreign television and radio signals jammed.

Both the army and UN peacekeepers have been patrolling the streets of Abidjan since Sunday, and there are fears that Gbagbo's inauguration later on Saturday could trigger further unrest.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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