ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Ivory Coast recalled its envoy to Senegal on Friday in protest at what it called interference in its internal affairs, accusing the African state of hosting a visit by a poll rival to Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo.
The move followed unconfirmed reports that Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade held private talks this week with Ivorian opposition leader Alassane Ouattara, due to face Gbagbo in the second round of a presidential vote on November 28.
“The government of Ivory Coast vehemently objects to this unfriendly act which amounts to an unacceptable interference by the Senegalese president in the internal affairs of the Ivory Coast,” said an official letter sent by Gbagbo’s government to Senegal, obtained by Reuters.
Gbago aide Silvere Nebout said Senegal’s envoy to Ivory Coast had been summoned to the foreign ministry in Ivory Coast to take delivery of the letter.
The octogenarian Wade has styled himself as a regional statesman, and as a liberal is politically closer to former IMF official Outtara than he is to the more left-leaning Gbagbo.
No immediate comment was available from his government, which has still not confirmed local media reports that Outtara turned up in the capital Dakar on Thursday. Ouattara’s party has also not confirmed his visit to Senegal.
Results from Ivory Coast’s first election in a decade gave Gbagbo 38 percent and Ouattara 32 percent. The long-delayed poll in the world’s top cocoa grower is meant to reunite the once prosperous nation after the war of 2002-3 split it in two and left the north in the hands of rebels.
International observers have largely given Sunday’s first round election the thumbs-up. But there are concerns that neither supporters of Gbagbo or Ouattara will accept defeat in the second round, setting the stage for street violence.