Soon after the disputed election in Ivory Coast, Alassane Ouattara and his government in waiting moved to the safety of the UN protected Hotel du Golf, a luxury complex in the city of Abidjan.
At the hotel there are 800 UN soldiers as well as armed supporters of Ouattara. The complex is, in turn, surrounded by troops loyal to Laurent Gbagbo who have prevented anyone going in or leaving by road.
Because of threats of attacks by Gbagbo’s supporters, tension there is high. A reporter from euronews could only get to the hotel aboard a UN helicopter.
Alassane Ouattara has not given any interviews but his spokesman Patrick Achi did answer our questions:
“Why does Mr Ouattara not want to speak directly to us?”
Patrick Achi, spokesman for Alassane Ouattara:
“Mr Ouattara doesn’t wish to make any comment right now. Everything that has been done by the international community has ended up convincing him that he is the new president elect. So on this issue there is not much to say. As for the rest, regarding how we can end this crisis, there is also the Conference of Heads of State of the Economic Community Of West African States, so the sub-region is tackling this matter head on, and so we expect that something will come from that and before that he can’t actually say anything.”
“State run Ivory Coast TV and also those who are close to Gbagbo are calling on people to storm the hotel where you are based, faced with that, how do you feel?”
“The Hotel du Golf is very well secured by the UN forces here in Ivory Coast and by soldiers from the French peacekeeping operation, who are operating under UN command; so we are relatively calm, we’re not really concerned. Our main concern, as we’ve said, is the protection of the civilian population, who are threatened by the mercenaries, the militia, recruited by the outgoing government. And that’s what worries us most.”
“What would you like to see from Europe, and the Economic Community Of West African States, how about a military option?”
“Well, Europe has done a lot, because all of Europe has recognised that Alassane Ouattara was elected president. We also know that Europe imposed sanctions against people close to former President Laurent Gbagbo, and also against those who have committed human rights violations. Europe is also working on financial support. So the EU is already doing a lot; it can certainly do more, but we will have the opportunity to discuss that in more detail. Right now we feel relatively satisfied with what has been done. Regarding ECOWAS, the Economic Community Of West African States, there also we have major expectations, because you know they are currently pushing ahead with discussions on the incumbent president stepping down peacefully.”
“What do you think is the most effective way to end the crisis?”
“Well, the most effective way is the one that is already underway. Namely to do everything to make the outgoing president see sense, both him and his entourage. Make them understand that the country is the most important thing. Yes, it’s true that power and men’s ambition are important, but the interests of the country are above all that. And because we love our country and because we love the people, we must find ways to accept the election results, to step down peacefully, and accept that there is life after that.
“Now, as regards the use of force, that is something that nobody wants; it’s always a possibility, because it is obvious when you’re talking about the loss of human life and a crisis and when people are suffering, that can’t go on forever. We also cannot let people who have taken control of the state through their control of parts of the army, but especially through control of the media, to send messages that incite hatred, and that could bring about a very genocidal situation, and possibly chaos.
“Everybody living in Ivory Coast, everywhere in Ivory Coast, has learned the lessons of this long crisis, that they have all suffered over issues they have not always understood, and in fact this country is a country of integration, of all the people from the sub-regions within the country, all the ethnic groups are intermingled, and it really is this diversity that makes it rich… and if you know how to intelligently use this diversity as a source of increased exchange of cultures, intellect and wealth, we are able to bring lasting peace which is the source and foundation of all development, and we believe that the new president, Alassane Ouattara, is capable of doing that, we are really confident of that, and that is why we hope that this crisis doesn’t continue, so it doesn’t create artificial divisions that are subsequently, difficult to reconcile.”