As African envoys engaged in a diplomatic shuttle between Ivory Coast’s rival leaders, Alassane Ouattara rejected a new proposal from incumbent Laurent Gbagbo, insisting the time for discussion was over and demanding again that Gbagbo cede power.
African envoys met with Ivory Coast’s rival presidents Monday in a new bid to try to convince Laurent Gbagbo to cede power in exchange for safety guarantees.
The leaders of Benin, Sierra Leone, Cape Verde and Kenya met with Gbagbo in the main Ivorian city of Abidjan earlier Monday before holding talks with Alassane Ouattara, Gbgabo’s arch rival and the man internationally recognised as the Ivorian president.
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But after a long day of shuttle diplomacy between the presidential palace in Abidjan, where Gbagbo is based, and the Golf Hotel, the lagoon-side where Ouattara is holed up, the visiting African leaders failed to convince Gbagbo to step down, according to FRANCE 24 reporters in Ivory Coast.
“Laurent Gbagbo has not agreed to step down,” said FRANCE 24’s Pauline Simonet, reporting from Abidjan. “He demanded the establishment of an evaluation committee on the electoral process. For his part, Alassane Ouattara has categorically rejected this proposal. According to Ouattara, Laurent Gbagbo is simply trying to buy time and he has no intention of giving Gbagbo another day,” explained Simonet.
Speaking to reporters late Monday, Ouattara said “the discussions were over” and that Gbagbo must leave office.
The latest power struggle in the West African nation was sparked by the disputed Nov. 28 presidential runoff that both men claim to have won.
Despite widespread international condemnation and calls to step down, Gbagbo has refused to concede defeat.
Benin's Boni Yayi, Sierra Leone's Ernest Bai Koroma and Cape Verde's Pedro Pires, representing the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), arrived in Abidjan Monday on their second visit to Ivory Coast since the disputed election.
They were joined by Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who has been appointed the African Union’s point-man to negotiate a solution to the Ivorian crisis.
Following Monday’s meetings, the leaders of Benin, Sierra Leone and Cape Verde are expected to travel to the Nigerian capital of Abuja where they are scheduled to brief Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan.
Nigeria, the regional powerhouse, holds the rotating presidency of ECOWAS and analysts believe that if the West African regional grouping were to send troops into Ivory Coast, Nigeria would provide the bulk of the forces.
Monday’s meetings saw the four African leaders trying to negotiate a resolution to a crisis that has gripped the West African nation for over a month.
Speaking to reporters earlier Monday shortly after meeting with Gbagbo, Odinga said the four African leaders were in Abidjan “in order to have dialogue with a view to resolving the crisis."
But he declined to provide details of the meeting, said Charles Onians, AFP correspondent for FRANCE 24. “African leaders here to talk with Gbagbo and Ouattara have held what they described as ‘useful talks,’” said Onians. “But nothing has emerged publicly about the actual content of their discussions in terms of what is being offered on the table for both the presidents. The intent of the mediations though is to allow Mr. Gbagbo an honourable exit.”
On Christmas Eve, ECOWAS passed a resolution threatening the use of force if Gbagbo refused to step down.
But when asked if the mission repeated the ultimatum during Monday’s talks with Gbagbo, ECOWAS Ivory Coast representative Doukoure Abram told Reuters: "No, there will be discussions going on."
Alassane Ouattara - Portrait
“We believe you cannot negotiate with a dictator, he has to go, he lost the election,” said Soro. “If he (Gbagbo) doesn't agree to leave peacefully today, then ECOWAS will have no choice but to use the military option.”
The threat – and dread – of military force
While the West African alliance has threatened to use force if necessary, analysts say regional leaders are keen to avoid the military option to oust Gbagbo since he is still backed by the Ivorian military.
A regional economic powerhouse and the world’s largest cocoa exporter, Ivory Coast is home to immigrants from neighbouring countries, including Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Ghana. West African leaders fear a major security disruption in the region.
A military intervention is “the last thing” the delegation of African envoys wants to see, said Onians. “Any violence involving the UN or ECOWAS could easily spin out of control, considering Ivory Coast’s history of ethnic violence.”
The 2002 civil war has effectively split the country into the rebel-controlled north and the loyalist south.
More than 170 people have been killed and more than 20,000 Ivorian refugees have fled to Liberia since the start of the latest crisis.
For his part, Gbagbo is determined to stand fast and has maintained that Western powers are leading an “international plot” to topple him.
“I will not stand down,” he said in his annual New Year’s address to the nation.
Date created : 2011-01-03