Ivorian opposition leader, Laurent Gbagbo,sworn in as president of Cote d'Ivoire, as Gen. Guei flees frompeople power....

Special report by Ofeibea Quist-Arcton in Abidjan

The veteran Ivorian opposition leader, Laurent Gbagbo, has beensworn in as president of Cote d'Ivoire the day after a popularuprising swept the military leader, General Robert Guei, from powerand less than a week after a controversial election. Gbagbo, afifty-five year old history professor-turned-politician, and leaderof the Ivorian Popular Front party, was the centre of attention atthe investiture ceremony held at the presidential palace in Abidjan,which -- less than twenty-four hours earlier -- had been under siegeby angry protestors marching in defiance of the military regime.

Wearing a dark suit and a diffident smile, an emotional Gbagbospoke clearly, though his voice broke as he took the oath of office.His wife, Simone Ehivet Gbagbo, resplendent in a tailored top andlong skirt in brilliant emerald green silk brocade, burst into tears,shaking with emotion and smiling as she wept and watched herhusband.

A loud and appreciative cheer went up when the two kissed andhugged under the huge orange, yellow and green fan-shaped Ivorianflag that billowed gently above the new presidential couple.

TheGbagbos, who have seven children between them, have been togethersince the early 1970s when they met as young political activists.Gbagbo (left in the pix) thanked his fellow Ivorians for voting forhim and standing by him, and for what he called their courage, whenthey took to the streets in their thousands on Tuesday and Wednesdayto protest against General Robert Guei, who was swept from power in apopular and spontaneous uprising.

After being sworn in, Gbagbo addressed his compatriots, givingthem an idea of his plans for country's future. He said his first actwould be to appoint a prime minister, and then the members of thegovernment, who would hold their first cabinet meeting on Friday at3pm local time (and GMT).

Gbagbo pledged that his would be an administration of tolerance,solidarity, unity and democracy. In a country that has been dividedby ethnic, religious and regional strife in the ten months since acoup d?etat, that was widely received as hopeful news. "Before thesovereign people of Cote d"Ivoire, I solemnly swear on my honour, torespect and faithfully defend the constitution, to protect the rightsand liberties of citizens, and conscientiously to fulfill myfunctions in the higher interests of the nation, Gbagbo said in hisoath of office. "May the people withdraw it's trust and may I facethe full rigour of the law should I betray my oath."

It was after uttering that vow that Gbagbo told an assembledaudience of senior civilian and army officials, members of thediplomatic corps, and chiefs and other traditional leaders, that hisgovernment would be open to all his political rivals.

"I stretch out my hand to everyone," he said, in a gesture ofreconciliation, adding that he already had plans that he will putbefore the former governing Democratic party (PDCI). Gbagbo indicatedthat he would also be talking to the Rally of the Republicans (RDR),the party led by Alassane Ouattara, a former prime minister, who wasdisqualified from Sunday?s presidential election and has challengedthe validity of the poll.

On Thursday, October 26, 2000, supporters of both Ouattara andGbagbo clashed in different parts of Abidjan A spokesman for Ouattarasaid the police had earlier tried to force their way into his house,using tear gas to disperse his supporters.

Ouattara escaped to the German ambassador?s residence next door.In the surrounding streets, Gbagbo supporters hunted Ouattaraloyalists who were being stripped naked, kicked and whipped. Anunconfirmed number of people were reported to have been killed.Churches and mosques were targeted in the violence, and seniorrepresentatives from both parties appeared together on television,appealing for calm, law and order. A state of emergency and curfew,already in force, were extended until Saturday, with orders fortroops to be deployed all over Cote d"Ivoire until order returned tothe divided nation.

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