A top official of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) told VOA heads of state and government have unanimously called on President Laurent Gbagbo to step down and hand over power to the new president, Alassane Ouattara.
Sonny Ugoh, communications director for the West African regional bloc said the regional leaders agreed with the U.N. assessment that former Prime Minister Ouattara won last month’s run-off vote described by international observers as credible.
“They (regional leaders) decided to endorse the position of the U.N., which is accepting the results of the election or the outcome as declared by the electoral commission to the effect that Alassane Ouattara won the election. And, they are encouraging (Mr.) Gbagbo to allow him to exercise his mandate because that is the voice of the people,” said Ugoh.
“We have suspended Cote d’Ivoire from all decision making authorities of ECOWAS in line with article 45 of the protocol of democracy and good governance. They are two very fundamental decisions that were taken by the heads of state and government in their collective wisdom, and that we think it will send the message clearly to the people of Cote d’Ivoire.”
ECOWAS issued a statement following a meeting of seven regional heads of state in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, Tuesday calling on Mr. Gbagbo to step down “immediately.”
Ugoh said ECOWAS leaders agreed with the international view on the election’s outcome.
“Increasingly, you can see that there is a consensus within the international community in favor of this position. It is now left to him (Mr. Gbagbo) to heed to the voice of the international community and the voice of the people of Cote D’Ivoire.”
The head of ECOWAS, Nigerian President Jonathan Goodluck, said the group is not interested in a negotiated unity government saying such arrangements in other countries like Kenya or Zimbabwe did not work.
Mr. Gbagbo maintains that he won the November election and has named a new prime minister, who presented a new Cabinet to reporters in Abidjan Tuesday. Mr. Gbagbo controls the army and state television.
Mr. Ouattara has also claimed victory, raising fears of renewed conflict in Ivory Coast.
After the runoff election last month, 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.