Côte d'Ivoire

Ouattara Set to Take Oath of Office as Ivory Coast President

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Ivory Coast's President Alassaine Ouattara is set to take the oath of office Friday, formally ending the violent political crisis that followed November's disputed election. Meanwhile, a United Nations human rights team is investigating a possible mass grave in an Abidjan suburb where the new national army has been battling loyalists of the ousted president.

Rights concerns

The office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights says investigators are examining a possible link between the alleged mass grave in Yopougon and a Wednesday attack on a Baptist church.

Red Cross officials say they have collected 60 bodies this week in Yopougon, which is the last holdout of militia loyal to former president Laurent Gbagbo. That fighting has continued nearly one month after Gbagbo was captured in an underground bunker.

Gbagbo questioned

Gbagbo is now under house arrest in northern Ivory Coast where prosecutors Friday questioned him about his alleged role in post-election violence. Two French lawyers retained by his daughter were turned back at Abidjan's airport.

That violence followed Gbagbo's refusal to hand over power to the internationally-recognized winner of November's vote, Alassane Ouattara. Ouattara has been the country's de facto leader since Gbagbo's capture and will have a formal inauguration in the political capital Yamoussoukro May 21.


Friday's oath of office at Abidjan's presidential palace follows the constitutional council officially proclaiming him president.

Constitutional council president Paul Yao N'dre says the council endorses the African Union decision to settle the crisis and therefore proclaims Alassane Ouattara President of the Republic of Ivory Coast.

N'dre helped set off this political crisis five months ago by annulling as fraudulent nearly 10 percent of all ballots cast to announce Gbagbo's re-election. The United Nations certified electoral commission results that showed Ouattara won the vote by eight percent.

N'dre says the council overturned its previous ruling because Ivory Coast is a member of the African Union and recognizes "international norms and standards accepted by competent national organs" as more authoritative than internal decisions.

N'dre says the sons and daughters of Ivory Coast must now come together so that peace returns and the country can continue to develop.


President Ouattara has already moved to reopen banks and restart cocoa exports. The European Union is set to deliver $63 million of aid for the agricultural and justice sectors as the first installment of what will eventually be $261 million in assistance.

The United States is providing $43 million to help relief groups deliver health care, clean water, and household items to displaced civilians.

World Health Organization (WHO) spokesman Tarik Jasarevic says the priority now is reopening health centers that were closed by the political crisis.

"In regions of Montagna Moyen Cavally, 55 out of 106 health centers are not operational and five out of eight hospitals," he said. "And this is due to the lack of personnel. It is due to looting of drugs and medical equipment or partial or total destruction of health infrastructures. Sixty percent of health workers are absent, and those who have stayed have not received salaries for three months."

WHO says it is working to help pay health workers in Ivory Coast, especially in rural areas. It says most of the health centers in Abidjan are open but do not have enough supplies.