The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) [official website] on Friday urged incumbent Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo [BBC profile] to step down, threatening the use of force if he attempts to maintain power. Gbagbo has refused to cede power to president-elect Alassance Ouattara [BBC profile], who won the November 28 runoff electio,n according to international observers. Gbagbo’s supporters have allegedly been engaging in violence and intimidation against opponents, which has resulted in more that 170 deaths [JURIST report], hundreds of arrests and the use of torture, ill treatment and forced disappearances, according to UN human rights officials. Gbagbo has faced multiple threats and sanctions levied by both the regional and international communities, including travel bans and freezes on financial assets, in addition to personal pleas from neighboring heads of state. Despite this, Gbagbo has refused to step down, describing actions against his government as illegal [BBC report] and rejecting the possibility of a power sharing agreement modeled on those created after the disputed elections in Kenya and Zimbabwe [JURIST news archives]. ECOWAS is also expected to send a delegation [Montreal Gazette report] of the presidents of Benin, Sierra Leone and Cape Verde to meet with Gbagbo hoping to convince him to make a peaceful exit so as not to have to depend on forced removal.
On Thursday, the UN Human Rights Council [official website] adopted a resolution condemning the post-election violence. Also Thursday, Ouattara’s prime minister Guillaume Soro [BBC profile] called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] to launch an investigation into possible crimes being committed by Gbagbo’s supporters. Earlier this month, the Council of the EU [official website] adopted a decision instituting sanctions [JURIST report] against the Ivory Coast. There has been unrest in the country [JURIST report] since elections were held at the beginning of this month. The UN certified Ouattrara’s victory, despite a ruling by the Ivorian Constitutional Council in Gbagbo’s favor. Both have taken oaths of office. Approximately $340 million in aid from the EU could also be withheld if Gbagbo does not concede victory to Ouattrara.