Ivory Coast envoy: World shouldn't decide our elections

Israel neutral in crisis facing friendly African state; Ambassador Kessie Raymond Koudou tells 'Post' country is not on verge of civil war.

Koudou 311 (photo credit: The Ivorian Embassy)
Koudou 311
(photo credit: The Ivorian Embassy)
Israel is taking a decidedly neutral stand in the crisis in the Côte d’Ivoire that could hurtle that country down the path toward a new civil war.
Israel is “not saying what to do, or preaching to others what to do, hoping that the sides will be able to solve the problems,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said on Wednesday.
Israel knows and has had good relations with both President Laurent Gbagbo and his chief rival, Alassane Ouattara, a former prime minister and International Monetary Fund official, Palmor said.
Both men are claiming victory in November’s presidential election run-off, with Gbagbo defying the world – the UN, the EU, the African Union and the 15- nation block of West African Countries called ECOWAS – and refusing to accept defeat and leave power.
The Côte d’Ivoire’s ambassador in Israel, Kessie Raymond Koudou, said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post in his Ramat Gan office that he understood the Israeli position, and did not level any criticism against the government. What he doesn’t understand was the world, which he said was trying to determine for his country what institutions can determine the fate of an election.
Koudou is loyal to Gbagbo.
A civil war in 2002 left the country, once an African economic powerhouse and considered a model for the continent, divided into two regions: the rebel-led mostly Muslim north, and the south. The election in November was supposed to place the country on the road to rehabilitation, but instead left it prone to further violence, with more than 170 people killed in protests, Gbagbo blockading his rival’s headquarters, and a strictly enforced dawn-to-dusk curfew.
A number of days after the election in late November, the country’s Independent Electoral Commission declared that Ouattara had won the election, 54.1 to 45.9 percent. This result was endorsed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
But a day later the Constitution Council, led by a close ally of Gbagbo, threw out hundreds of thousands of votes in the country’s north – Ouattara’s stronghold – and declared Gbagbo the victor.
Koudou said it was completely legitimate for the Constitutional Council to throw out votes from the north because there was “massive fraud, ballot box stuffing and violence” in the region. Further, he said, Gbagbo representatives were not allowed there to oversee the elections. He said it was not possible to have credible elections in a region controlled by the rebels.
The New York Times, however, reported international observers as saying there was no large-scale fraud in the area.
Koudou said that it was irrelevant that the head of the council was close to Gbagbo, and that in every country in the world – including Israel, the US and France – appointments to courts and the country’s supreme judicial bodies were made by the executive. That does not make them illegitimate, he argued.
“It is not for the world to say who is the president,” Koudou said, adding that Côte d’Ivoire has its own legitimate and sovereign institutions that determine these matters, the highest being the Constitution Council.
Koudou said that the solution Gbagbo was offering was for the international community to establish a commission of inquiry to look into what he characterized as massive fraud in the north.
“They should come and investigate to see if the complaints and allegations are true,” he said.
Koudou blamed France for leading the international community on the issue against Gbagbo, saying that Paris still thought it was the country’s colonial ruler and preferred Ouattara because “when he was the prime minister [in the early 1990s] he did a lot to promote French interests.”
The envoy, who has been in Israel for about five years, dismissed the notion that his country was on the verge of another civil war. He did not ask anything particular of Israel in this conflict.