ABIDJAN, Cote d'Ivoire - A top advisor to incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo said Thursday that the British and Canadian ambassadors have been asked to leave the country in retaliation for Cote d'Ivoire's ambassadors in London and Ottawa being expelled.
Pascal Affi N'Guessan, the president of Gbagbo's political party who is one of his closest advisors, said that the two ambassadors will be made to leave in the same manner as their Ivorian counterparts, who he says have been humiliated by the recall demand.
"The ministry of foreign affairs has decided to apply the principle of reciprocity following what has happened to our ambassadors," he said.
"They will be asked to leave in the same condition that ours are being asked to leave. And they will be allowed to stay if ours are allowed to stay."
N'Guessan added that the Canadian ambassador solely stands to be affected by the order to leave because the British ambassador is based in Accra, Ghana.
For over a month since the November runoff, Gbagbo has refused to leave office even though results compiled by the country's electoral body and certified by the United Nations showed he had lost by a nearly 9-point margin to opposition leader Alassane Ouattara.
Ouattara has since then been hunkered down in a resort hotel under the protection of United Nations peacekeepers. The international community has been nearly unanimous in its support of him. Among the many ways he is attempting to wrestle power back from Gbagbo is through pressure applied abroad, including the recall of diplomats accredited by the Gbagbo regime.
Ouattara has sent letters to over 20 countries asking them to no longer recognize the ambassadors there. Last week, the British Foreign Office informed Gbagbo's ambassador in London that they no longer recognized him and he would be asked to leave. N'Guessan says Canada followed suit.
The tug-of-war between the sitting president and the internationally recognized is threatening to plunge Ivory Coast into another civil war. It has also turned into a test of democracy in Africa, because it is the first time that the United Nations was invited by the host country to not only observe the election, but also to give the final verdict by certifying the results.
Diplomats say that because of that there is no doubt that the winner of the ballot is Ouattara - not Gbagbo - and if Gbagbo is not persuaded to step aside, it will create a dangerous precedent and undermine democracy on the continent.