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Ivory Coast poll winner tries to govern from hotel

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Alassane Ouattara. — Photo: AP
Alassane Ouattara. — Photo: AP

From a hotel room just big enough to hold a bed and a desk, the man considered the legitimate President of Ivory Coast is trying to govern a troubled nation whose sitting President refuses to leave.

Alassane Ouattara does not have access to the presidential palace, so he holds Cabinet meetings in a tent on the hotel lawn. His administration has taken over the hotel manager's office, where the fax machine is used to communicate with embassies abroad. And the neighbouring golf course's sloping fairways may soon house soldiers defecting from the army still controlled by incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo.

In the upside-down world that has taken root in this corner of Africa, 68-year-old Mr. Ouattara was declared winner of last month's presidential election by his country's election commission in an outcome certified by the United Nations. He was recognised as the legal President by the United States, the European Union, former colonial ruler France and the African Union. Just about the only world leader who has not acknowledged his victory is the one occupying the presidential palace across town.

Despite near-universal condemnation, Mr. Gbagbo has turned his back on the world since the country's constitutional council led by one of his close advisers overturned the results and declared him the winner by throwing out the votes from provinces where Mr. Ouattara had won a majority. He imposed a curfew, sealed the country's borders and imposed a media blackout by cutting off foreign TV and radio channels.

He has ignored pleas to step down from close friends and political heavyweights alike, going so far as to refuse a telephone call last weekend from U.S. President Barack Obama, who was told that the sitting President was “resting”.

“We find ourselves in an exceptional situation where the former President is refusing to leave the palace,” said Guillaume Soro, who was Prime Minister under Mr. Gbagbo and is one of several members of his government who resigned in protest.

“What I deplore is that in full view of the international community and of the country, the elected President is the one forced to live in a hotel.” — AP


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