Alassane Ouattara, the man the United Nations says won Ivory Coast’s presidential elections, will soon control the revenues from customs duties on Ivorian cocoa exports, said Ouattara’s UN envoy.
Youssoufou Bamba, the Ivory Coast’s UN ambassador, also voiced confidence that the west African regional group ECOWAS was prepared to intervene militarily to oust Laurent Gbagbo, who has refused to resign as president since a disputed November 28 election, and was determined to do so.
“I have no doubt about it,” Bamba told Reuters in an interview when asked if ECOWAS was ready and willing to use force to remove Ggagbo. “ECOWAS is very sound and has shown maturity, if you will, in previous crises.”
Bamba gave as an example an ECOWAS operation in the late 1990s to reinstate Sierra Leone’s ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah after forcing out junta leader Johnny Paul Koroma, Reuters reports.
“You have to trust ECOWAS,” Bamba said. “They are working. They are heads of states. They are aware of the gravity of the situation, and they have their credibility also. Our organisation is exposed. It is at stake.”
“This is a very important test for us and I have no doubt in my mind that ECOWAS will pass it successfully,” he added.
Gbagbo’s access to state accounts at West Africa’s central bank has already been frozen, but he still controls taxes, customs and the lucrative oil and cocoa sectors. Ivory Coast is the world’s top cocoa producer.
Bamba was asked if Ouattara would be able wrest control of the ports and the cocoa income from Ggagbo.
“Definitely,” he said. “The Ouattara administration will gain control of every structure in the state of Cote d’Ivoire very soon.”
“I don’t think Mr. Gbagbo has much room to manoeuver; his room for manoeuvring is smaller and smaller,” he said. “He has to step down.”
FEARS OF VIOLENCE
He gave no details about how Ouattara, who is holed up in a luxury hotel in the main city Abidjan protected by U.N. peacekeepers, would get control of the customs duties.
Bamba also dismissed media reports that he was suggesting Ouattara might be willing to form a unity government with Gbagbo’s people provided Gbagbo steps down.
“Never ever (was) it about a power-sharing agreement,” he said. “That should be very clear. Mr Ouattara has won the election.”
Bamba said Ouattara had promised during his election campaign to “associate with people from various parties.”
“In that context he will welcome competence from other parties … including people from Mr. Ggagbo’s party,” he said.
He dismissed the idea that Ghana’s reluctance to contribute troops to an ECOWAS operation to force out Gbagbo indicated that there was a split within the group.
“Ghana said it will not contribute troops, but Ghana is very much in tune (with) the rest of ECOWAS states to mount pressure to use every means possible to remove Mr Gbagbo,” Bamba said.
Violence has killed more than 200 people since the poll, and fears of further conflict have led more than 20,000 people to flee into neighbouring Liberia, according to U.N. figures.
Bamba’s main concern is the deterioration of security.
“When people are brainwashed all day long, all night long, with so negative a message, what could you expect next?” he said. “They are (liable) to put a weapon in the hand of innocent people who will kill other innocent people.”
“That should be stopped now,” he added.