France 24-In his first televised speech since the disputed Nov. 28 run-off, Ivorian strongman Laurent Gbagbo called for an international review of the country’s political crisis even as he insisted he was the legitimate president.
In his first televised speech since the disputed Nov. 28 presidential runoff, Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo called for an international panel to review the post-electoral power struggle over the presidency in a Tuesday night address to the nation.
In his long-awaited address, broadcast live on state-run RTI television, Gbagbo insisted he was the country’s legitimate leader.
“I won the election with 51.45 percent of the vote. I am president of Ivory Coast. I thank the Ivorians who renewed their faith in me,” Gbagbo said.
The country’s Independent Election Commission declared Gbagbo’s rival, Alassane Ouattara, the winner of the Nov. 28 run-off in a ruling that has been accepted by the international community. The electoral commission’s findings were, however, overruled by the country’s Constitutional Court, which declared Gbagbo the winner.
Despite international calls on Gbagbo to respect the will of the Ivorian people and cede power to Ouattara, the incumbent Ivorian president has remained defiant.
But in his Tuesday night address to the nation, Gbagbo suggested the international community assemble a panel to examine the current political stalemate, saying he did not want to see “the blood of a single Ivorian spilled”.
“I am therefore ready — respecting the constitution, Ivorian laws and the rules that we freely set for ourselves — to welcome a committee of evaluation on the post-election crisis in Ivory Coast,” he declared.
The panel would be led by the African Union and would include representatives from the United Nations, the European Union, the United States, Russia, China, the Arab League and the West African bloc ECOWAS, as well as “Ivorians of goodwill”, Gbagbo said.
He also called on Ouattara to leave the Golf Hotel in Abidjan, where the presidential challenger has been holed up since the run-off, protected by some 800 UN peacekeepers.
“I launch an appeal for all the personalities that still find themselves in the Golf Hotel to head back to their homes. No-one forced them to take refuge in that hotel. No one will stop them from leaving. They are free to move,” Gbagbo said.
At least 50 people have been killed in post-electoral violence since the run-off vote, according to the UN.
Curfew lifted, but Ouattara supporters still fearful
Minutes after Gbagbo’s televised address, a senior military official announced the lifting of a nightly curfew that had been in place since the eve of the Nov. 28 run-off.
“This measure will allow families to enjoy the end-of-year holidays and the New Year under improved conditions,” Colonel Hilaire Babri-Gohourou said in a statement on RTI, following Gbagbo’s speech.
Despite international calls on Gbagbo to hand over power to Ouattara, the Ivorian army has remained loyal to Gbagbo.
The lifting of the nightly curfew has followed a series of overnight raids by armed men in the main commercial city of Abidjan, primarily in the Ouattara strongholds of the sprawling city.
While daylight brings a semblance of normality – albeit a tense one – in the streets of Abidjan, fear and violence grips the city at night, with reports of armed men conducting deadly nightly raids targeting Ouattara’s support base.
Reporting from Abidjan, FRANCE 24’s Cyril Vanier said the lifting of the curfew was greeted with suspicion by Ouattara supporters, in part because troops loyal to Gbagbo control most parts of the city.
“They don’t seem reassured at all by the lifting of the curfew,” Vanier said. “They believe it’s a trap.”
Earlier on Tuesday, a FRANCE 24 team reporting from a neighbourhood dominated by Ouattara supporters were spotted by elite Ivorian troops and stopped from filming at gunpoint. Residents of the neighbourhood left the scene, fearing retribution.
“Lifting the curfew does not mean that Gbagbo will lift or ease the tight grip her has on the Ouattara strongholds of Abidjan,” Vanier said.