UN head again urges former President Gbagbo to step down

UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday once more urged former Côte d'Ivoire President Laurent Gbagbo to step down to avoid further conflict.

"A lot is at stake. First of all, the fundamental principle of democracy that the genuine will of the people should be reflected," said Ban on the eve of co-chairing an African meeting on the post-electoral turmoil in Côte d'Ivoire.

The UN Secretary-General added the integrity of the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the international community, including the UN, should be preserved.

"Therefore, I would urge again that Gbagbo and his camp should fully respect the will of the Côte d'Ivoire people, which has been expressed through the election," said the Secretary-General.

Gbagbo was defeated in the November run-off elections by opposition candidate Lassane Ouattara. However, he refused to step down despite the approval from the UN and the international community.

The 2010 presidential elections were meant to be the culminating point in reunifying a country split by civil war in 2002 into a Government-controlled south and a rebel-held north.

The UN ratified that Ouattara was the winner of the last presidential elections, despite Gbagbo's fraud claims and manipulations of results. He ordered a Constitutional Council to annul votes in several regions and declared himself winner.

Gbagbo also demanded the withdrawal of United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI). The mission currently has approximately 9,000 blue helmets to aid in to reunify the African country and support president-elect Ouattara.

The UN categorically rejected the demand and reinforced the mission instead. Last week, the UN Security Council sent 2,000 more peacekeepers and three armed helicopters at the request of the Secretary-General.

Some 200 people have been killed and more than 20,000 Ivorian refugees have fled to neighboring countries, especially Liberia, since the violence began between the Army controlled by Gbagbo and Ouattara's supporters including UN peacekeepers.


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