Covington & Burling is wading into a fight between the recognized president-elect of the Ivory Coast and the man who refuses to hand over power to his successor. Covington will be filing disclosure documents tomorrow that show the firm has been hired to represent Alassane Outtara, the president-elect of the Ivory Coast who is working to unseat renegade President Laurent Gbagbo.
Outtara, a former International Monetary Fund economist, was declared the winner of the Ivory Coast’s Nov. 28 election and has been recognized by just about every other world leader and the United Nations. Gbagbo has refused to concede defeat in that election.
Covington will advise Outtara on his effort to shore up international recognition for his electoral victory and to make sure that monies paid to the Ivory Coast in taxes or in compensation for goods and services flow into the coffers designated by Outtara and not those operated by Gbagbo.
Covington is representing Outtara pro bono.
The team from Covington will include both lawyers and policy advisers from the firm. O. Thomas Johnson, an international litigation partner, will serve as the lead lawyer and will be joined by Alan Larson, a former under secretary of state for economics who now works at Covington as a senior international policy adviser; Peter Trooboff, a Covington senior counsel (and a columnist for The National Law Journal); associates Jonathan Gimblett and Jennifer Saperstein; and senior international adviser Anne Pence, a former State Department policy coordinator.
Larson said the firm offered to represent Outtara for free because “his effort is fundamentally about the rule of law and that goes in line with Covington & Burling’s long history of public service.” He added that as soon as the paper work is filed on Outtara’s behalf, the team from Covington will begin developing a strategy to “ensure the international community fully supports the president and his programs and activities.
The team members from Covington are not the first Washington lawyers to get involved in the contest between Outtara and Gbagbo.
Lanny Davis, a former White House adviser to President Bill Clinton, was hired by Gbagbo in December to advocate on his behalf in Washington. Davis ultimately quit that job after drawing fire in the United States for representing a client who has been accused of widespread human rights abuses. According to Salon.com, Davis was paid $100,000 per month to represent Gbagbo.