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February 13, 2011

ECOWAS Dismisses Ivorian President Gbagbo Election Lawsuit

by Peter Clottey

A senior official of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said embattled Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo is wasting “everybody’s” time after his administration began a legal challenge of the regional bloc’s decision to recognize former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara as winner of Ivory Coast’s presidential run-off vote.

Sonny Ugoh, communications director of ECOWAS, told VOA the sub-regional bloc stands by its decision insisting that Mr. Ouattara won the vote described by poll observers as free and fair.

“Of course, our position still remains the same. It is just the process of actualizing it that we are still working on. As far as we are concerned, and the evidence before us to the effect that Alassane Ouattara won the election and that is the basis for all the decisions that the heads of state had taken; and, that is the position of ECOWAS,” said Ugoh.

President Gbagbo’s administration is challenging ECOWAS’ decision to recognize Mr. Ouattara as winner of the November 28 vote contending that it violates the supremacy of the country’s Constitutional Council.

But, Ugoh said the regional bloc will “forcefully” defend its decision to recognize Mr. Ouattara as the legitimate winner.

Shortly after filing the lawsuit, Mohamed Lamine Faye, an attorney representing President Gbagbo’s government, told journalists that, “We are asking the court to hold that these pronouncements are illegal…If they are illegal, they are null and void. They should suspend any action in respect to these pronouncements.”

Supporters of President Gbagbo have accused the West African sub-regional bloc of contributing to the ongoing political stalemate.

“I don’t think anybody can accuse us of being reckless or irresponsible. We are a very responsible organization and we know what the requirements are and we factored those in before we took our decision. And, the decision for us is the same as the international community. I don’t want anybody to say that the international community has been irresponsible on the matter of Cote d’Ivoire,” said Ugoh.

“We have taken our responsibility seriously and we know what the law is and we have been so advised and we stand very firm on our conviction,” he said.

After the run-off election, Ivory Coast's Constitutional Council annulled nearly 10 percent of all ballots cast saying they were fraudulent. That led the council to declare Mr. Gbagbo the winner.

The sub-regional bloc is joined by the African Union, the United Nations and most nations recognize Mr. Ouattara as the winner.

ECOWAS has warned that it will use “legitimate force” if President Gbagbo
refuses to step down.

But, despite increasing international pressure, supporters of the Ivoirian leader say Mr. Gbagbo will not step down.