Côte d'Ivoire is on the brink of what may be a very bad 2011. After a five-year delay, Côte d'Ivoire held presidential elections on Oct. 31. A peaceful first round of voting was commended by the international community, but the runoff between incumbent Laurent Gbagbo and former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara was marred by clashes and allegations of fraud on both sides.
The international community, including the United Nations, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), former colonial power France, and the United States, has recognized Outtara as the victor, but this has not prevented Gbagbo, with the backing of senior military officials and the Constitutional Council, from taking the oath of office. Both politicians have named prime ministers and governments as tension mounts and protests occur in the streets. The United Nations has reported disappearances, rape, and at least two dozen deaths so far.
Worst case scenario: Gbagbo stays in power, armed conflict between the supporters of each side plunges the country into civil war. Best case scenario: Gbagbo succumbs to international appeals and steps down. But it's not clear how things could get better from here. The international community has already ratcheted up pressure, including financial restrictions and travel bans. And the United Nations renewed the mandate of its peacekeeping operation there, despite Gbagbo calling for its immediate departure.
It's very possible that Cote d'Ivoire will take a turn for the worse in 2011. Gbagbo and Ouattara both have heavily armed supporters who seem ready to fight for the long haul.
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