Abuja — The United States of America (USA) weekend called on President Laurent Gbagbo to act like a statesman and hand over power and authority to Alassane Ouattara, who on November 28 won the second round of Côte d’Ivoire’s presidential election.
US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Ambassador Johnnie Carson told reporters in a telephone press conference across Africa over the weekend that the US will take decisive action against Laurent Gbagbo if he does not hand over power to the right winner.
“If that does not happen, the United States will take further steps such as travel bans and sanctions directed against President Gbagbo, his family and associates”, Carson said.
He noted th at,”it is the determination of the US government to do everything we can to ensure that the votes of all Ivorians are counted and respected and that the legitimately elected President of Côte d’Ivoire, Alassane Ouattara, is allowed to take office as reflected by the votes.”
The Ivorian people, Carson stressed, “seek democracy, stability, development and economic opportunity. They don’t seek a continued contestation over an election that was clearly won by Alassane Ouattara.”
The US envoy told reporters there is “substantial and undisputed evidence showing that Alassane Ouattara won.” The special U.N. representative in Côte d’Ivoire, Ambassador Y.J. Choi, had all of the results that were posted from the country’s districts, “so he had the exact information and detailed information on voting across the nation,” Carson said.
“The United Nations, the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States ECOWAS and a number of international organizations observed the elections and said they were ‘free and fair’ and reflected the will of the people,” he said.
“There was relatively little violence, and so when the votes came to Abidjan and officials started to say people were unable to cast their ballots because of intimidation and violence, this was wrong – because there was no intimidation or violence and everybody had seen that votes had been cast properly,” he said.
Ambassador Johnnie Carson, who has served in Kenya, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Botswana, Mozambique, Nigeria and Tanzania, believes “the era of stealing African elections is over.”More critically,” Carson added, “was the fact that the numbers were known and they were known by the international community – through the U.N. – which had a heavy, heavy invested stake in this process.”
Carson told reporters: “We have seen in the case of Côte d’Ivoire the value of international observation and monitoring. We have seen the value of having a third source beyond the two competitors – to be able to certify the legitimacy of elections. We believe and hope that the era of bad elections [is] over. This should not happen. We hope that President Gbagbo will step aside, will do the mature, statesmanlike thing and … hand over power and authority to the person who actually won.”
“I hope that the statements that have been made by ECOWAS two days ago that said very clearly that Alassane Ouattara had won the election and that Gbagbo had lost would be a signal of the views of the region, that it is time for Mr. Gbagbo to leave,” Carson said. “The U.N. Security Council issued a presidential statement affirming its support for the report made by the special representative, Ambassador Choi. It endorsed the ECOWAS statement and we have also seen equally strong statements coming from leaders in the African Union.”
Carson told reporters the current AU president, Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika, has stated that he supports the determinations of the United Nations and ECOWAS that Ouattara won. “I think that if all Africa stands up and puts its political voice and its political weight behind a free and fair election and the outcome that favors Alassane Ouattara, that that will be the kind of momentum that is required,” Carson said.
Responding to a question about possible U.S. military intervention, Carson said the United States “has no plans to engage or intervene in any way militarily in Côte d’Ivoire. It is not for us to do this. This is not that kind of situation and we have no desire to do it. We hope that African voices, African pressure, will be sufficient. We hope that the AU will do precisely what ECOWAS has done, and that is to suspend a government led by President Gbagbo from participation in its organs. ECOWAS has already said that any government led by President Gbagbo will not be able to participate in ECOWAS. We hope that the AU will make that same kind of pronouncement.”
“If President Gbagbo does not step down, the United States is looking to take further additional steps against him, his family, his wife, his children and his immediate entourage and those individuals who are helping to keep him in power illegally,” he warned. “We will consider travel bans on him and his family and his immediate entourage. We will consider economic sanctions against him and his immediate entourage.”
“We think that the era of stealing African elections is over,” Carson said. “This should be an example for all of Africa that this can no longer be tolerated. Theft of elections should not be a part of the democratic process.”
“West Africa has great promise and great potential,” Carson said. “Just as we have seen the return of democracy after five decades in Guinea-Conakry, we believe that it is time for the people of Côte d’Ivoire after a decade of instability to be allowed to have the democracy that they seek and desire.
“It is time for the leadership to allow the economic growth that has been stalled in Côte d’Ivoire to return,” he said.