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Ouattara Appointment Takes Embassy Reins for Ivory Coast in US

Foreign embassies have become proxy battlegrounds for the two rival presidents in Ivory Coast.
Foreign embassies have become proxy battlegrounds for the two rival presidents in Ivory Coast.

Ivorian immigrants and embassy staff in the United States have welcomed the installation of a new ambassador appointed by the president-elect of Ivory Coast Alassane Ouattara.  The Wednesday night ceremony came amid increasing violence in the Ivorian commercial capital Abidjan, where incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo remains in control of the army.

Far from the ongoing violence in the pro-Ouattara neighborhood of Abobo in Abidjan, musicians in Washington played drums to greet the arrival of the new ambassador Daouda Diabate inside the embassy compound.

Diabate arrived shortly after receiving his new credentials at the White House. He called on all embassy staff to work for Ivory Coast, and said he was confident Mr. Ouattara could soon fully assume the presidency.

An Ivorian national who travelled from New York to attend, Fofana Karamoko, called the day historic.
He said Diabate who had previously been ambassador under Mr. Gbagbo in the United States and more recently in Brazil was courageous in deciding to serve for Mr. Ouattara. "This occasion is very specific for us because of the situation in the Ivory Coast. We are here today to support him, to let him know that Ivorian people are proud to welcome him in this embassy," he said.

Another Ivorian identified himself as Bloomberg, and the so-called mayor of Ivorians in New York. He said he also felt proud of Diabate but wanted non-Ivorians to start helping as well.

"We have a new president and we are going to have new ambassadors for everywhere in the world so that is why he is here now.  We would like to see the U.S. President Obama or anybody to take care of Ivory Coast to help people from Ivory Coast to be better," he said.

Sirima Doumbia, a mechanic in the United States, said it was difficult to celebrate when his own neighborhood of Abobo back home was undergoing so much violence. "It is very, very hard, because family and friends are there and they cannot sleep, they cannot go anywhere because they keep bombing them. That is not nice. Laurent Gbagbo must stop, he must stop the killing. He lost the elections. He needs to leave," he said.

Several security forces on Mr. Gbagbo's side have also been killed in recent firefights, prompting hundreds of people to flee the Abobo area and sparking fears a long-dormant civil war may resume. Top ranking military officials said they were securing the area.

The current crisis started after the Ivory Coast constitutional council cancelled voting from the rebel-held north of Ivory Coast, overturning election results released by the national election commission and certified by the United Nations giving victory to Mr. Ouattara.

The incumbent president has said he will not recognize visas issued from embassies where Mr. Ouattara's envoys start work.  In France, where a Ouattara appointee had to change the locks to enter the premises, visas are being issued from other locations by Gbagbo allies.

In addition to diplomatic pressure, the Ouattara side is also trying to strangle Mr. Gbagbo economically by shutting down the banking system from outside, and requesting the use of an external force to push him out completely.

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