Côte d’Ivoire/Ouattara-Gbagbo – Haiti/Election
Q. – The situation is explosive in Côte d’Ivoire; there were six deaths this afternoon in the clashes which took place in the centre of the country. It’s a particularly dangerous situation. What’s France’s reaction?
THE MINISTER – France is sticking to an extremely clear line of conduct. Côte d’Ivoire hasn’t elected her president for 10 years. An electoral process was organized, supported by the international community and under UN aegis. France is resolutely adhering to this line.
The process was conducted entirely properly until the end of the second round. The known, published results – which, moreover, aren’t disputable – show that M. Ouattara came ahead of M. Gbagbo.
Q. – M. Gbagbo refuses to acknowledge these results.
THE MINISTER – Indeed, he refuses to acknowledge the results which have nevertheless been validated by the UN, by the UN Security Council, the international community and the African Union – this, really, is no small thing for the African continent.
Q. – But nothing’s happening today [at international level]. M. Ouattara’s supporters today began a demonstration to take over the television building, which ended in six deaths, and this is a provisional toll. Are we going to let M. Ouattara’s supporters clash with M. Gbagbo’s, without doing anything?
THE MINISTER – From the outset, France said that the process must be concluded. Democracy is about peace, freedom and law. On no account must violence start up again in Côte d’Ivoire and, frankly, that country, which has already been in turmoil for years, doesn’t need it.
Q. – Does that mean you condemn the demonstration called for by M. Ouattara?
THE MINISTER – I condemn all forms of violence, which doesn’t mean taking to the streets must invariably be considered tantamount to a form of violence.
It’s not necessarily a form of violence: in France we live in a democracy and people have the right to take to the streets peacefully to express an opinion. But on the other hand, France calls on, urges all sides to show restraint, to show a sense of responsibility.
Q. – Is M. Gbagbo personally responsible for today’s violence, which claimed six lives when his supporters fired on the demonstrators?
THE MINISTER – I’m obviously not in a position to answer your question with any great accuracy. What’s clear is that the International Criminal Court Prosecutor published a communiqué this very morning in which he made it abundantly clear that the International Criminal Court will launch inquiries and indeed prosecutions with regard to all those engaging in recognized forms of violence against others, particularly by firing on the crowd.
It’s a wide-ranging measure, addressed not at anyone in particular but at everyone.
Q. – Today, is Laurent Gbagbo responsible for what’s happening?
THE MINISTER – What’s clear today is that M. Laurent Gbagbo must show – and it would be the greatest service he could do to Côte d’Ivoire – that he accepts the principle of democracy itself, its result.
The Ivorians have chosen: it’s M. Ouattara who must hold the presidential responsibility and M. Gbagbo must withdraw with dignity.
It’s what we call the harmonious operation – the operation full stop, in fact – of democracy.
Q. – But M. de Raincourt, Laurent Gbagbo is refusing, there’s pressure and the European community is asking to go even further by taking reprisal measures to force him to stand down; that means a freeze on assets and several other things. Should we go further? How far should we go?
THE MINISTER – There are sanctions envisaged on the individual level; I repeat, there’s no question whatsoever of penalizing the Ivorian people.
Q. – In other words?
THE MINISTER – Well, we’re asking for a number of individual sanctions, possibly a freeze on assets, the confiscation of property, and definitely the recognition of M. Ouattara’s signature at the banks and on behalf of Côte d’Ivoire.
They’re simple things, peaceful things, but democratic arguments that must prevail over the violence and ensure M. Gbagbo listens to reason and accepts his responsibility.
Q. – The Licorne force is made up of 900 French soldiers: is that enough to evacuate possibly 15,000 French nationals? Is there that risk of possible evacuation?
THE MINISTER – Today, the Licorne force does indeed comprise about 900 men. It’s entirely ready to go ahead with any operation to evacuate our compatriots if that’s necessary.
For the time being there’s no specific threat; no sign of violence against our compatriots has manifested itself, has emerged, so we’re being vigilant; the embassy and the consulate are in permanent contact with all our nationals in order to take the necessary measures. But they’ve already been given cautionary advice so that everything goes as well as possible.
We very sincerely hope there won’t be any violence against foreigners, including the very many French people in Abidjan.
Q. – Another point, about finding a solution that avoids interference in what’s happening in Côte d’Ivoire: is that the French position? Is is still possible to maintain it?
THE MINISTER – The French position is 100% in line with the international position. There will be no interference by France in Ivorian domestic politics. That’s clear and precise.
Q. – A word, though, Minister, on the situation in Haiti. There’s a very popular candidate, a singer who didn’t get through to the second round and is calling for a fresh election, possibly one round in January, or a recount of the vote. What are we doing with regard to this situation in Haiti?
THE MINISTER – The definitive results of the first round should be published in a few days’ time, around 20 December. So we must take advantage of the remaining four days to ensure the political forces in Haiti display responsibility there, too, in accordance with the electoral code that applies to that country.
Q. – Could there be a vote recount? Is there any doubt about the result?
THE MINISTER – Well, if it’s necessary. It happens in France, too, where votes are recounted in municipal elections if necessary
Q. – Could there be another vote in January?
THE MINISTER – We’re not yet at that stage. We must see the definitive results that are published around 20 December. We can’t question the result of the election without knowing exactly what’s involved. Democracy requires transparency and clarity throughout the procedure.
Q. – Doesn’t that call into question the international aid to Haiti, as certain American elected representatives are demanding?
THE MINISTER – The Haitians are really in urgent need of international aid. After all the earthquakes, all the disasters, all the tragedies that have befallen them, we’re not going to punish them further because of political battles between the men and women engaged in politics in Haiti. It’s absolutely out of the question./.