|Cote d'Ivoire's incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo has refused to give up power [AFP]
The head of the central bank of West African states, who is accused of not cooperating with the internationally recognised winner of Cote d’Ivoire’s presidential elections, has resigned.
The decision by Philippe Henri Dacoury-Tabley was announced on Saturday after a meeting of the heads of state of the West African Economic and Monetary Union in Bamako, Mali.
Cote d'Ivoire’s incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo has refused to give up power despite international calls for his ouster. The regional central bank had recognised Alassane Ouattara as the head of state and revoked Gbagbo's access to state accounts in December.
Officials with the regional union said that only representatives of Ouattara's government would have signing privileges on state accounts. The regional bank, known by its acronym BCEAO, regroups the treasuries of eight West African countries.
Ouattara officials have said that despite this action, Gbagbo has still been able to access money from the central bank. Without access to state funds, there is speculation whether Gbagbo would be able to pay state salaries.
In a statement read to media after the meeting, the union said that it accepted Dacoury-Tabley's resignation and called on Ouattara to propose a replacement for the bank.
Dacoury-Tabley is known to be a close confidant of Gbagbo. He said he was pressured into the resignation after having been accused by Ouattara's camp of going against the bank's policy to cut off funds to Gbagbo.
"I agreed to hand in my resignation as that is what was asked of me," Dacoury-Tabley said after the meeting.
He defended his actions as head of the bank, pointing to various practical and technical reasons for not giving control of Cote d’Ivoire’s accounts to Ouattara.
"Some people can't understand what really went on," he said. "I am profoundly sad for the institution that I served for 35 years."
Cote d'Ivoire was represented at the Bamako meeting by Ouattara's prime minister, Guillaume Soro, who said this was a positive step for the country.
"The measures that were taken were good ones because the legitimate government of Ivory Coast could not accept that someone who confiscated power continued to withdraw money from the Ivory Coast's accounts," Soro said.
The government of Gbagbo "rejected the forced resignation" of Dacoury-Tabley.
In comments broadcast on state television, still controlled by Gbagbo, his administration rejected the decision by West African leaders to ask Alassane Ouattara to designate a new governor of Central Bank of West African States.
The Gbagbo administration, deploring what it said was the "forced resignation of Philippe-Henry Dacoury-Tabley," urged the "population, the economic operators and financiers," not to panic.
"All measures have been taken to ensure the smooth functioning of the Ivorian banking system," the statement said.
France envoy sanctioned
Also Saturday, France's ambassador in Cote d'Ivoire had his diplomatic privileges revoked by Gbagbo after Paris did the same to the incumbent leader's ambassador this week.
Ahoua Don Mello, Gbagbo's government spokesman, announced the measure on Cote d'Ivoire state TV late on Saturday.
The foreign ministry in France released a statement saying it did not recognise Gbagbo as president and therefore dismissed the order.
France is the third country to have its ambassador sanctioned in Cote d'Ivoire, after Canada and Britain. All three countries recognise ambassadors appointed by Ouattara. Canada and Britain also refused Gbagbo's orders.
While Gbagbo continues to occupy the presidential palace, the internationally recognised winner of the vote has been forced to live barricaded inside a hotel.
Ouattara is being protected by around 800 UN peacekeepers, who have turned the Golf Hotel into a fort surrounded by barbed wire.