Ivory Coast. The whole year was a nervous march ahead of
the promised presidential election in October. According to
Laurent Gbagbo had already been in overtime for five years,
and planned elections had been postponed six times during
that time, so there was doubt that democracy would be
Concerns were reinforced by the fact that Gbagbo
dismissed the entire government in February and dissolved
the Independent Electoral Commission. Prime Minister
Guillaume Soro, leader of the rebel movement. In the new
commission that was given responsibility for organizing the
elections, the opposition retained a majority of the seats.
The UN Local Representative approved the electoral votes
established, but it was a public secret that another
important prerequisite for the election had not been
fulfilled: neither side had fulfilled the promised
disarmament of irregular forces.
The first round of elections was conducted in relatively
calm conditions and the result was that Gbagbo and
opposition leader Alassane Ouattara had to redo the
presidential title. Former Prime Minister Ouattara has been
at the center of the crisis that has shaken the Ivory Coast
immigrant country for a decade, since his citizenship has
been called into question.
The weeks leading up to the decisive election round were
marked by violence and threatening statements. While the
announcement of the result was delayed, the country's
borders were closed, foreign news broadcasts were blocked
and nightly curfews were imposed. Finally, the Electoral
Commission proclaimed Ouattara victors with a good margin.
Shortly thereafter, the so-called Constitutional Council -
controlled by close associates of Gbagbo - annulled the
results in several regions in the north and declared Gbagbo
as the victor. Gbagbo quickly took office for a new term,
while Ouattara also proclaimed president. Two parallel
governments were formed.
The outside world reacted with outrage at Gbagbo's
actions. The United Nations, the United States, the EU,
France, the African Union (AU) and the regional cooperation
organization ECOWAS all recognized Ouattara as legal
president. The EU issued an entry ban to Gbagbo Union and 60
people from its inner circle, while the West African central
bank announced that its accounts would only be made
available to Ouattara and the government he appointed. The
International Monetary Fund also said it would only
cooperate with an internationally recognized government.
Ivory Coast was suspended from its membership in the AU.
African mediation attempts did not produce immediate
results and on New Year's Eve ECOWAS threatened with
military intervention to oust Gbagbo. Threatening rhetoric
from employees at Gbagbo raised concerns about a new civil
war. According to the UN, only 173 people were killed by
Gbagbo's security forces during the week immediately
preceding the Christmas weekend. Ouattara and his government
were trapped in a hotel protected by former Northern and UN
soldiers, while loyal loyalists to Gbagbo besieged the area.
The UN Security Council extended the mandate for the peace
force after rejecting Gbagbo's demand that it leave the