|Laurent Gbagbo claimed reelection to the presidency.|
ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast — International mediators tried to intervene yesterday in Ivory Coast’s growing political crisis after both candidates in the disputed election said they were president, raising fears the country could again be divided in two.
In the northern opposition stronghold of Bouake, several hundred people marched down a main boulevard yesterday afternoon, calling for incumbent Laurent Gbagbo to stand down. Villagers wielding machetes created their own checkpoint in protest on a major road in the region.
“It’s important not to have violence, not to return to war — to find a peaceful solution,’’ the former South African president, Thabo Mbeki, said yesterday after arriving in Abidjan to try to mediate for the African Union.
The international community recognized opposition leader Alassane Ouattara as the winner of the presidential runoff held a week ago in Ivory Coast, the world’s largest cocoa producer.
That, however, did not stop Gbagbo from defying calls to concede. On Saturday, he wrapped himself in the Ivorian flag as he was sworn in for another term at the presidential palace. Hours later, Ouattara told reporters that he too had been sworn into office.
The development set up parallel governments and raised serious questions about who was in charge of this West African nation, which was split into a rebel-controlled north and government-controlled south by a 2002-2003 civil war. Despite Ouattara’s international support, Gbagbo holds many of the key elements of power, including the army and the state media.