By Nangayi Guyson – Montreal -The Canadian government on Thursday rejected an order by Ivory Coast’s embattled leader Laurent Gbagbo to expel the Canadian envoy, saying it would only recognise statements by election victor Alassane Ouattara.
Gbagbo’s government expelled Britain’s Nicholas James Westcott and Canada’s Marie Isabelle Massip after the two countries said they no longer accepted his ambassadors.
Their diplomatic privileges and immunity remain in place until they leave Ivory Coast or until a reasonable amount of time has passed for them to leave, said government spokesperson Ahoua Don Mello.
London and Ottawa said late last month they no longer recognised ambassadors appointed by Gbagbo and that they would only accredit new envoys named by Ouattara, his internationally recognised rival.
In a statement, Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon said, “Canada has not received a request from the legitimate government of Mr Alassane Ouattara to terminate our ambassador’s functions and Canada does not recognise Laurent Gbagbo’s claim to government. As such, his request is illegitimate.”
He added that, “We will continue to urge Laurent Gbagbo to cede power to President Ouattara, who has been recognized internationally as the legitimate president of Cote D’Ivoire following the November 28 elections,” Cannon said.
However, London also stressed it only recognized statements made by Ouattara and rejected those by Gbagbo, but the Foreign Office declined to comment on what action it might take over the strongman’s order of expulsion.
Ouattara is the internationally acknowledged winner of the November election which was supposed to end a decade of unrest which has split the country between north and south.
Both men have been sworn in as president and Gbagbo claims there is an international plot to oust him after more than a decade in power.
Gbagbo’s refusal to bow to international pressure has sent over 22 000 Ivorians fleeing the country amid fears of the return of civil war.