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Africa

Mbeki holds crisis talks with Gbagbo over election dispute

Video by Luke SHRAGO

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-12-05

Former South African President Thabo Mbeki is meeting with rival contenders for the Ivorian presidency Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara in Abidjan on Sunday in an attempt to mediate a resolution to the current political crisis.

Former South African President Thabo Mbeki held crisis talks Sunday in the Ivorian city of Abidjan with Ivory Coast’s incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo in an attempt to mediate a political crisis that has seen Gbagbo and his rival Alassane Ouattara claiming the presidency.

"We have just been meeting President Gbagbo," Mbeki told reporters after his delegation emerged from talks at the presidential residence on Sunday. "We are now going to meet Alassane Ouattara because we need to hear what he has to say."

He added, “We want to hear everybody's point of view in this matter before making any recommendations about what to do."

Mbeki called in as peacemaker in Ivory Coast

Mbeki is on an African Union (AU) mission to help break a political deadlock after a bizarre day in Ivorian political history that saw Gbagbo and Ouattara each holding inauguration ceremonies Saturday.

On Thursday, the UN-backed Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) announced provisional results showing Ouattara had won the election with more than 54 percent of the vote.

A day later, the country’s Constitutional Commission declared Gbagbo the winner and annulled results in seven regions in Ouattara strongholds in the north.

The international community – including the US, the UN and the EU – has backed Ouattara as the winner, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy has called on Ivorian civilian and military officials to respect the will of the people.

Once again, Mbeki steps in help sort out an Ivorian crisis

Mbeki arrived in the main Ivorian city of Abidjan Sunday morning, entrusted by the AU to “find a legitimate and peaceful solution to the crisis".

Reporting from Abidjan, FRANCE 24’s Willy Bracciano said the former South African president “has a difficult task, but both Gbagbo and Ouattara have agreed to allow Mbeki’s intervention.”

Mbeki helped mediate the 2007 peace deal while he was president.

At the time, he was seen by the opposition as being “too close” to Gbagbo, according to Chris Moore, another FRANCE 24 correspondent reporting from Abidjan.

“The goal of Mbeki’s mission,” said Moore, “is to avert a situation like the deadly one which enveloped Kenya in 2007,” when rival candidates claimed victory in the presidential election.

In the Kenyan case, a compromise deal saw incumbent Mwai Kibaki take on the presidency while his opponent Raila Odinga became prime minister.

The AU has come under criticism in recent years for failing to take a strong enough stand in mediating electoral disputes when longstanding African leaders refuse to concede defeat.

‘We are on alert and are preparing for the worst’

Tensions have been high across the West African nation, with reports of pro-Ouattara demonstrations breaking out in the northern regions and gunfire exchanges in Abidjan.

In a phone interview with FRANCE24.com, a doctor at a public hospital in the Cocody district of Abidjan, who declined to be named, said the country’s commercial capital was tense but calm on Sunday.

“Currently, the streets are almost empty, shops are closed, it's Sunday,” he said. “But if one of the two sides calls for demonstrations, the other side will call for counter-demonstrations. At the hospital, we are on alert and are preparing for the worst.”

Ordinary Ivorians were finding it difficult to access accurate information about the current political crisis, according to the doctor. International news channels, including FRANCE 24, have been taken off the air, with only the pro-Gbagbo, state-controlled RTI (Radio-Télévision Ivoirienne) channel available on the airwaves, he added.

“The only information we are getting from the Ouattara camp is through loudspeakers installed at the Hotel du Golf [in Abidjan] where the candidate [Ouattara] has his headquarters,” said the medical official.

A sprawling commercial capital comprised of distinct districts, some of which are home largely to Gbagbo loyalists, others to Ouattara supporters, while still others are mixed, Abidjan has been on a knife-edge over the past few days, according to Moore, with most residents opting to stay indoors as the crisis unfolds.

At least 17 people have been killed in post-election violence and there were fears of spiraling violence in an already divided country.

Once considered a beacon of West African stability and economic prosperity, Ivory Coast descended into a bloody civil war in 2002.

The 2010 elections, it was hoped, would bring stability to Ivory Coast and restart the Ivorian economic miracle in the world’s largest cocoa-producing nation.


But the latest post-election dispute has sparked fears that the New Forces rebels, who control the north, could take up arms, sparking bloodshed.

 


Date created : 2010-12-05

  • IVORY COAST

    Mbeki arrives in Ivory Coast to mediate crisis

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  • IVORY COAST

    World leaders back Ouattara as winner

    Read more

  • IVORY COAST

    Gbabgo declares victory, defies calls to stand down

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