Ivory Coast`s Ouattara sworn in as President

Alassane Ouattara finally took the oath of office at a ceremony in Abidjan.

Updated: May 07, 2011, 09:43 AM IST

Abidjan: Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara was sworn in as President on Friday, after months of political violence and as UN investigators probed deadly clashes earlier this week.

Ouattara, regarded by the international community as the winner of a runoff poll, finally took the oath of office at a ceremony at the presidential palace in Abidjan, the country`s main city.

He was sworn in by Paul Yao N`Dre, president of the constitutional council, before members of the government, diplomats, senior politicians and military officers.

"It`s the start of a new era of reconciliation and unity between all the daughters, and all the sons of our dear Ivory Coast," Ouattara said in a brief speech afterwards.

His formal investiture will take place on May 21 in the capital Yamoussoukro in front of foreign dignitaries.

A UN human rights team was due in the Yopougon district of Abidjan Friday to investigate reports that fighters on both sides had killed civilians there, Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said.

"They will also be looking into an attack against a Baptist church allegedly carried out by FRCI (Ouattara`s forces)," he told reporters in Geneva.

The church sheltered around 2,500 people forced to flee the fighting in Yopougon, he said.

The bodies of 60 people killed in recent fighting between government forces and pro-Gbagbo militiamen were retrieved on Tuesday in the Yopougon district, the Ivorian Red Cross said on Wednesday.

Several hundred militiamen are believed to still be active in the district.

Although the situation has quietened down since Gbagbo`s capture, sporadic clashes continue to break out and the authorities are still finding mass graves in parts of Abidjan and elsewhere in the country.

Ivory Coast`s state prosecutor had been due to start questioning Gbagbo on Friday, in the northern city of Korhogo where he is now being kept under house arrest.

But Abidjan`s chief prosecutor Simplice Kouadio Koffi said later Friday that had been postponed after until a French team of lawyers due to help him could attend.

A trio of lawyers including France`s Jacques Verges were turned back at Abidjan airport earlier Friday and put on the next flight to Paris.

Verges, whose past clients have included Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie and Carlos the Jackal, said it was clear that the authorities in Ivory Coast did not want the former president to receive a proper defence.

"I am very pessimistic about the future of a regime which treats lawyers in such a way," Verges said before leaving Abidjan.

Back in Paris, he denounced the French government for staying silent on the incident.

Ouattara, Gbagbo`s opponent in November`s disputed election, is determined his rival will face justice over the wave of violence which ripped through the west African nation, leaving around 3,000 people dead.

The fighting between the followers of Gbagbo and Ouattara had prompted fears of a return to the all-out civil war which effectively led to a north-south divide in the former French colony at the last decade.

Investigators plan to question more than 200 figures from the former regime, a process that will last until June, the Justice Ministry said. Most of those concerned were people the European Union had targeted for sanctions during the unrest, it added.

Gbagbo was arrested on April 11 with his wife Simone and roughly 100 loyalists following a raid on his residence in Abidjan by pro-Ouattara forces.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, said earlier this week that he would soon ask for authorisation to launch a formal investigation into crimes against humanity in Ivory Coast.

Although Gbagbo has not spoken publicly since his arrest, on Monday he was allowed to meet a delegation comprising South Africa`s Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former UN secretary general Kofi Annan and former Irish president and UN human rights chief Mary Robinson.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, Tutu said that Gbagbo appeared to be in good health.

Bureau Report