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African states at odds over Ivory Coast crisis

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-01-26

Efforts to end a power struggle in Ivory Coast have encountered another roadblock, as a delegation of West African states prepare a US trip to lobby for the possible use of force against incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo.

REUTERS - Cracks emerged on Tuesday in African efforts to end a power struggle in Ivory Coast, as Uganda became the latest country to question U.N. recognition of Alassane Ouattara as its president.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said he differed from the U.N. line on the crisis, as a delegation of West African states prepared a U.S. trip to lobby President Barack Obama and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to back the possible use of force to oust incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo.

The split illustrated the potential for rows at an African Union (AU) summit in Addis Ababa

TALKING POINTS: Is there any way out of crisis in Ivory Coast?

this week when the 53-nation group must decide its next steps after the disputed presidential election Nov. 28 in the world's biggest cocoa producing country.

Major cocoa exporting companies said they had stopped registering beans for export in compliance with a call by Ouattara for a one-month ban on deliveries, the latest attempt to force Gbagbo from office by blocking his access to funds.

Breaking ranks with an AU line which so far has backed the United Nations in recognising Ouattara as the election winner, Museveni said the vote had to be investigated.

"Uganda differs with the U.N. and the international community on Ivory Coast," presidential spokesman Tamale Mirundi told Uganda's Daily Monitor newspaper, quoting Museveni.

Museveni called for a probe into the election process, including the registration of voters.

South African President Jacob Zuma said last week there were discrepancies in the way the result was announced. Angola is also seen as a potential weak point in AU unity on Ivory Coast. Ghana has said it wants to remain neutral.

That contrasts with the resolve in near neighbours such as Nigeria and Sierra Leone, which see Gbagbo's defiance as a risk to regional peace and efforts to nurture democracy.

"If you don't move firmly, there's a chance you'll get more of this year. We don't want to create a bad precedent," a spokesman for Sierra Leonean President Ernest Bai Koroma said, referring to nearly 20 national elections in Africa in 2011.

Threat of force

West African leaders are aiming to press for a Security Council resolution backing the threat of force to oust Gbagbo.

AU efforts to find a solution have been unsuccessful, with Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the AU-designated mediator, accusing Gbagbo of repeatedly breaking his word in talks.

Gbagbo's camp has since accused Odinga of being biased. On Tuesday, Malawi's President Bingu wa Mutharika, current AU president, visited Ivory Coast, saying he wanted to hear all sides before the upcoming summit.

Political analysts say it could be some time before military intervention is in the cards, but Nigerian Foreign Minister Odein Ajumogobia said this week Gbagbo should realise he faced "a very real prospect of overwhelming military capability".

The flurry of diplomacy was aimed a securing political, logistical and financial support for this, a diplomat said.

Tara O'Connor at Africa Risk Consulting said the stance of some nations on the crisis would be determined by concern over their business interests in Ivory Coast, which before a 2002-2003 civil war was a star economic performer.

Allies of Gbagbo, who insists the U.N.-certified results were rigged, have shrugged off the warnings of military force and efforts of the United States, European Union and others to starve him of funds to pay civil servants and the army.

However, there was evidence those measures were biting on Tuesday when industry sources said six cocoa exporting houses, whose purchases amount to most of the annual 1.2-million-tonne crop, had stopped registering beans for export in response to Ouattara's appeal for a one-month ban on exports.

Desire Dallo, Gbagbo's finance minister, said pensions had not been paid on time on Tuesday, in what appeared to be one of the first publicly recognised signs that efforts to squeeze the flow of funds to Gbagbo may be working.

Dallo blamed the problem on the refusal by the BCEAO, the regional central bank, to free up funds after it received a freeze order from a Ouattara-nominated finance minister. State television then read a decree ordering the bank's employees to obey Gbagbo's government.

The news is likely to worry holders of Ivory Coast's $2.3 billion Eurobond, who are due to receive a coupon when a grace period runs out at the end of the month.

Although the crisis has pushed cocoa future prices close to 30-year highs on fears of disruption to supplies, so far the chocolate industry was taking it in its stride.

Date created : 2011-01-26


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