|Choi rejected accusations that he had meddled in internal affairs by declaring Ouattara the winner [AFP]|
The UN security council has backed Alassane Ouattara as the winner of Cote d’Ivoire’s disputed presidential election after days of deliberation, further undermining the legitimacy of Laurent Gbabgo’s bid to cling to power.
Wednesday’s statement came after Gbagbo, the incumbent, was sworn in for a new term despite losing the election by almost 10 points.
Cote d’Ivoire’s constitutional council had overturned Ouattara’s win, saying that election fraud in areas that supported him rendered the result invalid.
Observers in Cote d’Ivoire say that there were no serious irregularities with the vote, but Gbagbo has refused to hand over power despite pressure from the United States, the European Union and the West African ECOWAS regional bloc.
Ouattara is operating a parallel adminstration from a hotel, and both men have appointed cabinets, prompting fears that the country’s delicate security situation could unravel.
After considering the matter for days, the Security Council issued a statement calling “on all stakeholders to respect the outcome of the election.”
The statement did not mention Gbagbo by name, but condemned “in the strongest possible terms any attempt to subvert the popular will of the people.”
The UN also threatened “targeted measures”- diplomatic code for sanctions- against any threat to the Cote d’Ivoire’s peace process or UN peacekeepers in the West African country.
The statement had been delayed since Friday due to Russian discomfort with the idea of the UN declaring who had won election.
But Western countries said that the UN had a right to do so because Y.J Choi, the UN representative in Cote d’Ivoire, was empowered to certify election results as part of a peace deal that ended the country’s 2002-2003 civil war.
Choi has said the decision by the constitutional council to annul Ouattara’s victory was “not based on facts”.
“I am not interfering in Ivorian affairs … I am only doing my job as requested by the Ivorian authorities,” Choi said.
“I remain absolutely certain that I have found the truth concerning the will of the Ivorian people. The people have chosen one person … Mr Alassane Ouattara with an irrefutable margin,” he said.
Nii Akuetteh, former executive director of Africa Action, said the Security Council’s eventual position was no surprise.
“The Security Council has been moving in this direction,” he told Al Jazeeera. “If you look carefully at Russian objections and the responses that it received, it was only a matter of time.”
There have been fears that Cote d’Ivoire could slip back into conflict due the standoff between the two camps, whose supporters broadly fall along the same lines as the two sides that fought each other in the civil war.
Clashes with security forces and between rival supporters have left at least 28 dead and 280 wounded since November 26, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross, with some observers fearing the real figure is double that.