News / Africa

Ivory Coast to Inaugurate President Alassane Ouattara

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara (L) greets president Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso at Yamoussoukro airport, a day ahead of his inauguration, May 20, 2011
Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara (L) greets president Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso at Yamoussoukro airport, a day ahead of his inauguration, May 20, 2011

Ivory Coast is preparing for the formal inauguration of President Alassane Ouattara, a ceremonial end to the months of violence that killed at least 3,000 people following the West African nation's disputed election.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and French President Nicolas Sarkozy are among the dignitaries expected to attend the event Saturday in the capital, Yamoussoukro.

Ouattara was sworn in earlier this month, but Saturday's ceremony will be an occasion for the country to look forward to a new political era.  A coup in 1999 kicked off more than a decade of political instability for the former French colony, with a rebel uprising that split the country in two and elections that were repeatedly postponed.

The crisis heightened again after last year's presidential election, when President Laurent Gbagbo, who had ruled Ivory Coast since 2000, refused to step down despite vote counts certified by international observers indicating he had lost.

The standoff triggered four months of fighting, ending only after Gbagbo's arrest by pro-Ouattara forces on April 11. Human rights groups accuse supporters from both sides of killing and injuring civilians in the battle for power.

Analysts say this history will make it a difficult task to restore order and security to the nation once considered a bastion of stability and prosperity in West Africa.

President Ouattara has promised accountability for everyone guilty of atrocities in the post-election violence, including his own supporters.

The International Criminal Court on Friday appointed a panel of judges to investigate the violence. ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has said there is reason to believe serious crimes took place.

The U.N. Security Council has extended its peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast until the end of July.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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