Divided By Cote d’Ivoire
From all indications, there is a crack among members of the African Union, AU. James Victor Gbeho, president of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS commission, agreed that there is division in the AU over the disputed election in Cote d’Ivoire.
The outcome of the election, which has been lingering for the past three months, saw two candidates; – the incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo and his only challenger, Alassane Ouattara laying claim to the presidency. ECOWAS alongside other world bodies has recognised Ouattara as the legitimate winner of the election and asked Gbagbo to cede power to him. A fortnight ago, the AU accused ECOWAS leaders of hastily supporting Ouattara.
But Gbeho said South Africa is lending support to Gbagbo and has stationed her warship in Cote d’Ivoire’s high seas. He said at the handing over ceremony of a final report on the outcome of the presidential election in the West African country by the European Union Election Observer Mission, EUCOM, that though the mission of the ship is not known, the position of South Africa in the presidential tussle indicates that it is supporting Gbagbo.
ECOWAS is not the only group opposed to Gbagbo’s continued stay in power. Cristian Preda, EUEOM chief observer, who led other observers to monitor the Cote d’Ivoire election, accused Gbagbo of over heating the polity. He said there was pre-election violence in the country, which were orchestrated by Gbagbo supporters. “The Gbagbo campaign used increasing serious nationalistic and xenophobic arguments and means, contributing to deep pre-existing cleavages and provoking reactions from the other camp, although these never reached the same level of radicalisation,” he observed.
The fight for Bedie Baoule voters turned the second round of electioneering campaign into a battlefield. Baoule one of the presidential candidates did not meet the required percentage needed for the second round of voting. He eventually supported Ouattara with his 25.24 percent of the votes garnered in the first round. Ouattara scored 32.07, while Gbagbo led the first round with 38.04 percent votes. The submission of Preda further revealed that Ouattara scored an extra 400,000 votes to beat Gbagbo.
This result was not accepted by the president, who lodged a complaint with the constitutional council which he had appointed. The council is composed of his supporters. The council, swiftly annulled the results of the election from seven northern regions. But EUEOM said it did not identify any major irregularities likely to cast doubts on the results announced by the Independent Electoral Committee, IEC, in Cote d’Ivoire.
Since the recognition of Ouattara by ECOWAS and the international community as president elect, Gbagbo has launched media propaganda against the United Nations and ECOWAS. A group of Nigerian journalists were in Abidjan last week at the expense of the president, Gbagbo.
Another factor that the EUEOM used against Gbagbo was the traditional landholding system in the western part of the country which prohibits the sale of land to migrants or outsider population. They were also prohibited from voting in the region where Gbagbo hails from.