Ouattara is a strong Western ally but his national skills are more of an unknown quantity as he tries to reconcile his own fractious forces as well as Gbagbo’s loyalists. With Gbagbo confined in the north under UN guard and his forces demoralised or captured, the new president has signalled his seriousness by not allowing his staff any time off, despite having spent four months trapped in the Golf Hotel.
The difficulties facing President Alassane Dramane Ouattara (‘ADO’) in reconciling former enemies emerged again in the 6 May inauguration ceremony. In his acceptance speech, he praised the courage of the Constitutional Court, headed by a staunch loyalist of ex-President Laurent Gbagbo, Paul Yao N’Dré, in finally ratifying on 5 May his victory in last October’s election. Back in November, N’Dré and the Court voided 500,000 votes in the north, thus laying the groundwork for Gbagbo’s refusal to accept the result and the subsequent crisis and slaughter. If N’Dré was meeting Ouattara halfway, Ouattara was prepared to do the same.
That does not mean they had to like it. N’Dré was heckled when he called for a minute’s silence as a mark of respect for those who had died and a gust of ironic laughter interrupted his comment that all Ivorians had a right to choose their own leader. The body language of Ouattara and his wife spoke of contempt for N’Dré but ADO nodded nonetheless as N’Dré, who is confined in a hotel guarded by French soldiers, pleaded for reconciliation. The political elite may find reconciliation harder than ordinary Ivorians, whose ethnic enmities tend to flare up only when stoked by politicians.
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