In the video-taped remarks, President Obama sent an important and very clear message today to President Alassane Ouattara, Laurent Gbagbo, and the people of Cote d’Ivoire: the United States recognizes President Ouattara as the rightful leader of Cote d’Ivoire and calls on Laurent Gbagbo to step aside in the best interests of the country and its people. Cote d’Ivoire should—and can—be one of Africa’s success stories, with a thriving economy, a rich history, and a vibrant democracy.
President Obama has been focused on the situation in Cote d’Ivoire for some time. During his town hall with young African leaders at the White House last August, he spoke with a young Ivoirian participant and said that “Africa’s future also belongs to societies that protect the rights of all its people, especially its women." He declared that “the United States of America will stand with you as you seek justice and progress and human rights and dignity of all people.” That statement is even more important today as the violence against unarmed civilians has increased, raising fears that the country could descend into civil war. President Obama has strongly condemned the continuing acts of violence against unarmed civilians, particularly women, and calls on all leaders to reject violence.
The United States is not alone in standing by the people of Cote d’Ivoire. The international community is united in recognizing President Ouattara as the duly elected leader of Cote d’Ivoire. The African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the UN Security Council have all repeatedly called for Laurent Gbagbo to step aside immediately. As President Obama makes clear in his remarks, the United States will continue to seek a peaceful transition of power in Cote d’Ivoire and will be a partner of those who chose democracy.
Bob Leavitt is Director for African Affairs for the National Security Staff.