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African Union Suspends Ivory Coast, Reinstates Guinea

Supporters of Laurent Gbagbo celebrate in the streets of Adjame neighborhood, in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, after the constitutional council declared incumbent Gbagbo the winner a day after the election chief handed victory to the opposition, Dec 3, 2010

The African Union on Thursday suspended Ivory Coast until its leadership dispute is settled. At the same time, the continental body reinstated Guinea, which was suspended after a military takeover two years ago.

The AU Peace and Security Council approved a resolution suspending Ivory Coast's membership immediately. Peace and Security Commissioner Ramtane Lamamra said the suspension will remain in effect until President Laurent Gbagbo recognizes the outcome of last month's election and gives up power.

"The Peace and Security Council did formally acknowledge that Mr. Alassane Outtara is the president elect of Cote d'Ivoire," said Lamamra. "The same council decided to suspend Cote d'Ivoire until such time as Mr. Alassane Ouattara, the democratically elected president, will take over effectively."

The AU suspension follows similar action by the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, and a vote by the United Nations Security Council, recognizing Mr. Ouattara's victory.

Ivory Coast's electoral commission earlier certified Mr. Ouattara's victory, but the constitutional council alleged fraud and declared Mr. Gbagbo the winner.

Lamamra cautioned not to expect a quick-fix solution to Ivory Coast's political crisis or an immediate lifting of the suspension. He said ECOWAS and the United Nations are urging African Union Commission Chairman Jean Ping to negotiate an agreement that will lead to long-term stability.

"We want to deliver peace and democracy and reconciliation at the same time," said Lamamra. "The AU has its own methods of work. It is stemming out of the African culture. The way we bring about peace, reconciliation, understanding - I think you should give us some time to work on it."

Lamamra also announced a lifting of all sanctions against Guinea. "We have duly acknowledged that there was a return to constitutional order in Guinea. Therefore, sanctions are lifted. That means no ban on visas; no freeze on assets - all this is behind us."

Lamamra said he expects Guinea to promptly make a troop contribution to AMISOM, the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia. At the last AU summit, Guinea's interim leaders pledged a troop contribution once the sanctions were lifted.

Lamamra noted that Guinea's interim president, General Sekouba Konate, had recently been named to lead efforts to create an African standby military force and said the contribution to AMISOM will definitely happen.

Guinea was suspended from AU membership last year after a military coup following the death of president Lansana Conte. After several delays, a new president, Alpha Conde, was chosen in a runoff election last month.