Ivory Coast president heckled by protesters ahead of Olympic opening ceremony visit


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The Independent Online

The Ivory Coast president Alassane Ouattara, who is in Britain for the Olympics opening ceremony, was heckled by protesters as he met diplomats in central London earlier today.

One group, chanting anti-Ouattara slogans, displayed gory images of mutilated bodies and accused the president’s forces of having been behind the deaths during the 2010 post-election violence.

Police worked hard to contain the demonstrators outside the thinktank Chatham House who were divided in two camps –one in support of Mr Ouattara and the other against.

The president promised action into the claims. “If somebody whether from my camp or the other side is accused of crimes and there is evidence then they have to face the law,” he said.

Mr Ouattara’s detractors claim that he was aided by France and the United Nations to orchestrate the arrest and trial of former president Laurent Gbagbo at the International Criminal Court.

“Now since he is in power, we need him to recount the votes because that was the dispute,” said a protester who gave his name as “Christian G”.

But Mr Ouattara’s supporters waved Ivory Coast’s flag and dismissed the allegations as unfounded.

“These people are from Liberia not Ivory Coast. They are just disgruntled,” said one of the pro- Ouattara demonstrators.

Another accused the anti-Ouattara group of being bitter about their candidate losing. He said Mr Gbagbo’s refusal to relinquish power peacefully was the reason he was facing crimes against humanity charges at the ICC. “One is a president the other is a criminal,” he said.

The president was delivering a speech at Chatham House in central London on Friday. He will later join other dignitaries at the Olympic Park for the official opening ceremony for the Olympics.

Inside Chatham House, Mr Ouattara narrated how after the hotly contested elections in late 2010 he was afraid that Mr Gbagbo could have succeeded in killing him.

“I kept asking myself about Gbagbo ‘what if he succeeds in killing me? What could he have brought to the country yet the Ivorians and the international community had rejected him?’” he recalled.

The Ivorian president further outlined his successes and plan to transform the country, inviting investors to participate in the process.

Mr Ouattara, who is the chairman of the Economic Community Of West African States, told the audience that they have put in place measures that will ensure military coups cease plaguing countries in the regional bloc.