ABUJA (Reuters) - West African regional group ECOWAS on Friday voted Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara as its new chairman, just over a year after he won an election that sparked a four-month civil war.
Ouattara won a December 2010 election in Ivory Coast but incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo refused to cede power, leading to a conflict that killed some 3,000 people.
As the chairman of ECOWAS, Ouattara will host group summits and becomes a prominent voice for the region. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, during his time as chairman, won international praise for leading efforts by ECOWAS to put pressure on Gbagbo to cede power.
The 16-member bloc voted Desire Ouedraogo, former Burkina Faso prime minister, as ECOWAS commission president. He takes over from former Ghanaian foreign minister James Victor Gbeho.
“We have unanimously agreed that the President of Cote d’Ivoire Alassane Ouattara would take over as Chairman of ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government,” outgoing chairman Jonathan told reporters at the end of a two day ECOWAS summit in Nigeria’s capital Abuja.
After years of criticism for being a toothless body, ECOWAS has in recent years taken a stronger stance against coups and flawed elections, notably in Niger, Guinea and Ivory Coast - the world’s No. 1 cocoa exporter.
ECOWAS suspended Niger in 2009 after then-president Mamadou Tandja altered the constitution to extend his term in power, and it applied pressure on Gbagbo after he refused to recognise his loss in 2010 elections.