News / Africa

Ivory Coast President Ouattara Formally Inaugurated

Alassane Ouattara gestures during his inauguration ceremony, in Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast, May 21, 2011.
Alassane Ouattara gestures during his inauguration ceremony, in Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast, May 21, 2011.

Alassane Ouattara has been inaugurated as Ivory Coast's new president, six months after he won an election that the previous president refused to recognize.

President Ouattara took the oath of office more than three weeks ago. So Saturday's inauguration in the political capital Yamoussoukro was more of a rally for supporters of the man who outlasted former president Laurent Gbabgo in the political crisis that followed November's vote.

With Gbagbo under house arrest, the formal Ouattara inauguration was a chance for foreign governments to show their support for the new leader. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and French President Nicolas Sarkozy were in attendance as were the leaders of Burkina Faso, Senegal, Liberia, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Togo, and Nigeria.

President Ouattara said Ivorians now face the world, themselves, and their destiny.

The president expressed what he called his infinite gratitude to those who chose him as their president. He said Saturday's investiture is their victory, the victory of their sovereignty.

Ouattara has moved quickly to take control of a faltering economy by reopening banks, paying overdue civil service salaries, and resuming cocoa exports. France and the European Union are providing more than $820 million in emergency assistance.

Ouattara took power Apirl 11 when former president Gbagbo was captured after U.N. and French attack helicopters bombed the presidential compound where he was holding out in an underground bunker.

President Ouattara personally thanked President Sarkozy for that intervention under the U.N. mandate. He said it allowed many lives to be saved and the Ivorian people will always recognize that French contribution.

Gbagbo rejected U.N.-certified electoral results that showed Ouattara won their November run-off. He used the military to besiege Ouattara's hotel as members of his party's youth wing attacked Ouattara supporters and West African immigrants from countries that backed Ouattara's claim to the presidency.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) intends to investigate crimes by both Ouattara and Gbagbo forces. President Ouattara says Ivorian justice will prosecute anyone found guilty of human rights abuses, whether they fought for him or against him.

Ouattara said it is time to consolidate the pillars of the republic, renew its courage, and unite Ivorians to celebrate peace, without which, he says, development is not possible.

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