Alassane Ouattara's claim to the Ivorian Presidency was crowned with an inauguration on Saturday, May 21, 2011. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, was the guest of honour, with other heads of state and dignitaries attending the ceremony in the former French colony's official capital Yamoussoukro. Ouattara singled out France and Sarkozy, who got a standing ovation, for particular praise. "It's important to be here in Ivory Coast, at the side of President Ouattara, for democracy and for Africa," Sarkozy said, speaking to reporters. As Ouattara sat on stage wrapped in an orange sash, a group of traditional chiefs from Yamoussoukro cast sand on the ground and poured libation in a ritual to appeal the ancestral spirits to give him their blessings. You've seen that everybody has said, 'Thank you, Sarko'," interjected Ouattara, as the two presidents walked to an official welcoming ceremony.
U.N. tanks lined the main avenues of the city amid high security for the arrival of about 20 heads of state and dignitaries.
President Nicolas Sarkozy said that France will keep its troops in Ivory Coast to help protect its citizens in the West African nation. "We will maintain military forces here to protect our citizens," Sarkozy told a gathering of French citizens in Abidjan, the commercial capital.
France's 1,600 troops in Ivory Coast, played a key role in ousting the constitutional president, Laurent Gbagbo, who had refused to step down after UN-France rigged November elections, leading to a violent political standoff. The impasse ended when pro-Ouattara rebels backed by the French military raided Gbagbo's compound at the height of the fighting and kidnapped him from his blast-proof residence.
Gbagbo is under house arrest in Ivory Coast's north, Ouattara's stronghold. The International Criminal Court said it had been asked to investigate all allegations of serious abuses during the post-election crisis. Ouattara's forces are accused of abuses, such as looting, rape and killing civilians.
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