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African Union panel confirms support for Ouattara

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-03-10

A panel charged by the African Union to find a solution to the Ivorian crisis has confirmed Alassane Ouattara as the country's legitimate president and recommended the formation of a government of national unity.

AFP – Ivory Coast's months-old poll dispute came to a head Thursday as the African Union confirmed Alassane Ouattara's election and incumbent Laurent Gbagbo defied the international community.     

Buoyed by renewed support from a special meeting of the African Union, Ouattara vowed his rival would have to step down within "days or weeks" but Gbagbo lashed out at the continental body and ruled out power-sharing.
With Ouattara in Ethiopia for the AU meeting and Gbagbo digging his heels in at home, tension continued to mount on the ground, prompting the United Nations to describe the situation as alarming.
"The high-level panel confirms my election by the people of Ivory Coast -- with a large majority and a large turnout -- as president of the republic of Ivory Coast," Ouattara said in Addis Ababa.
He was speaking after a meeting of the AU's Peace and Security Council which adopted recommendations made by a panel of five African heads of state to break the deadlock that has crippled the west African country since the November polls.
"The measures that have been announced are binding. Very soon, Laurent Gbagbo will have to leave the office he has usurped since November 28," Ouattara said.
The meeting itself was still under way and Ouattara did not specify which binding measures the pan-African body planned to implement to remove Gbagbo from office.
The West African bloc ECOWAS, led by Nigeria, has threatened the use of force if Gbagbo does not recognise the results announced by the Ivorian electoral commission chief and step down. Gbagbo has gone to court to try to restrain ECOWAS.
Ouattara said the AU panel had asked him to form a broad government and provide Gbagbo with an honourable exit.
"I have accepted to do that in the interest of peace," he said.
The internationally recognised president had been holed up in Abidjan's Golf Hotel since the deadly post-poll crisis erupted before traveling to the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa.
Gbagbo stayed behind, sending a delegation to represent him.
Gbagbo's camp rejected the AU panel's proposal even before the formal meeting got under way and Gbagbo spokesman Ahoua Don Mello stressed in Abidjan that power-sharing was out of the question.
"What is on offer is power-sharing and the very principle of it is unacceptable," he said.
Ouattara was quick to insist that any government he forms will not be a 50-50 power-sharing arrangement but rather a broad-based line-up to which he intends to invite other parties.
"It's a government that I will form which will include members of other parties that I will select. It's different to say it's a national unity government as if ministers would be imposed on me, that's not the case."
Pascal Affi N'Guessan, a former prime minister who chairs Gbagbo's Ivorian Popular Front and is part of the delegation he sent to Addis Ababa, raised the spectre of violence if the world tried to force Ouattara into office.
"If this initiative does not yield relevant and irrefutable proposals that are sufficiently convincing, we fear that the African Union will in a way contribute to completing the coup that began in 2002 and has evolved into an electoral coup with the latest presidential elections," N'Guessan said.
He was referring to an uprising against Gbagbo in 2002, while he was travelling outside the country, which triggered a deadly civil war.
As soon as Ouattara left for Ethiopia, Gbagbo announced that all overflights and landings by UN and French forces in the country were banned.
The move left a question mark hanging over Ouattara's ability to return from Addis Ababa and drew the ire of UN chief Ban Ki-moon.
Ban "warns all parties that any attempt to disrupt flights conducted by the impartial forces is unacceptable," said his spokesman Martin Nesirky.
The world body's human rights chief on Thursday expressed alarm over the deterioration of a post-election crisis which has already left 392 people dead, including 27 in the past week.
"Overall, the situation appears to be deteriorating alarmingly, with a sharp increase in inter-communal and inter-ethnic confrontations," said Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.


Date created : 2011-03-10


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