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Opposition Demands Minister Resign Over Graft Allegations

  • Peter Clottey

Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo (R) speaks with Ivory Coast's Prime Minister Guillaume Soro before a meeting at the presidential palace in Yamoussoukro on February 18, 2010 after last week's surprise sacking of the cabinet by President Laurent Gbagbo

A prominent member of the opposition Democratic Party of Côte d'Ivoire–African Democratic Rally (PDCI-RDA) told VOA his party has issued a one-week ultimatum seeking the resignation of a cabinet minister over allegations of corruption.

Michele Koffi accused President Laurent Gbagbo of sabotaging the country’s electoral process by ordering a probe into the graft allegations against Interior Minister Desire Tagro.

“Four opposition parties have said that they are not happy with the situation going on. And then, definitely, we know that the power of Laurent Gbagbo is really corrupted. And then, it is not the duty of the president to undertake those kinds of issues. It is for the parliament to undertake the investigation,” he said.

President Gbagbo ordered the investigation after Mamadou Koulibaly, head of Ivory Coast’s National Assembly, or parliament, accused Tagro of nepotism and embezzlement.

Interior minister Tagro is also accused of favoring people from his region for places at a police training school and embezzling money set aside for the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.

Opposition leader Koffi warned the government to take the ultimatum seriously.

“We give one week for the minister to resign. If not, we will take our responsibilities on the ground and then troubles will be going on because he cannot be minister for Interior and Security Affairs and be under investigation,” Koffi said.

President Gbagbo’s investigation is also expected to focus on accusations that Tagro embezzled money paid to the country by the Trafigura Company as compensation for the victims of toxic waste dumped in the country’s economic capital, Abidjan, in 2006.

Koffi said that other opposition parties do not have confidence in the outcome of the president’s investigation.

“The point is, we don’t believe in justice from Laurent Gbagbo. We don’t believe that, under the power of Gbagbo Laurent, we have the opportunity of justice. We don’t trust him, (and) that is the point,” Koffi said.

Prime Minister Guillaume Soro was also linked to the graft allegations. But, his supporters rejected the accusation saying it was without merit.

Meanwhile, scheduled elections in Ivory Coast have so far been postponed seven times since President Gbagbo's mandate expired in 2005.

Opposition groups have often accused Mr. Gbagbo of clinging to power since his constitutional mandate expired and undermining efforts to organize general elections, a charge his supporters deny.