Pres­sures mount on Ivory Coast in­cum­bent

The Pak Banker - - 6i Nternational -

ABID­JAN: Three West African pres­i­dents will fly to Ivory Coast Tues­day to tell in­cum­bent leader Lau­rent Gbagbo to quit or face force, Benin said Satur­day, a sign of mount­ing re­gional de­ter­mi­na­tion to force him out.

Gbagbo has so far re­sisted calls to cede power to ri­val pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Alas­sane Ou­at­tara af­ter a Novem­ber 28 elec­tion which African neigh­bors, the United Na­tions, the United States and the Euro­pean Union all say Ou­at­tara won.

The United Na­tions said Satur­day it had so far counted 14,000 refugees flee­ing Ivory Coast for neigh­bor­ing Liberia since the vote, as fears mount that the dis­pute will rekin­dle a 2002-03 civil war.

Hu­man­i­tar­ian needs were in­creas­ing for the "mostly women and chil­dren refugees as well as for the vil­lagers host­ing them," UNHCR said on its web­site. Nearly 200 peo­ple have died in vi­o­lence since the elec­tion.

The pres­i­dents of Benin, Sierra Leone and Cap Vert will tell Gbagbo on be­half of re­gional bloc ECOWAS "that he must step down as quickly as pos­si­ble or face le­git­i­mate mil­i­tary force," Benin's For­eign Min­is­ter Jean Marie Ehouzou told Reuters.

A spokesman for Gbagbo's govern­ment-which is also fac­ing travel bans and fund­ing freezes-said Satur­day in an in­ter­view with Ra­dio France In­ter­na­tionale that the ECOWAS threat of force was "un­just."

Christ­mas cel­e­bra­tions were muted in the coun­try as fear­ful cit­i­zens stayed home.

"This is the worst Christ­mas I have ex­pe­ri­enced so far. Even in 2002 when there was war, it was bet­ter. The prob­lem now is that peo­ple are tired. Two pres­i­dents, two gov­ern­ments, all this is too much for peo­ple," said Sai­bou Coulibaly, a toy ven­dor in the main city Abid­jan.

Gbagbo in­sists he won the elec­tion af­ter the Con­sti­tu­tional Court, which is headed by one of his al­lies, threw out hun­dreds of thou­sands of votes from pro-Ou­at­tara con­stituen­cies.

The stand­off turned vi­o­lent last week with brief gun bat­tles be­tween govern­ment sol­diers loyal to Gbagbo and rebels who now back Ou­at­tara. The United Na­tions and hu­man rights groups have said gun­men are now at­tack­ing pro-Ou­at­tara neigh­bor­hoods by night, kid­nap­ping and killing peo­ple.

Ge­orge Koua­dio, a teacher, said he prayed dur­ing Christ­mas Eve mass that the po­lit­i­cal cri­sis would not reach the point of re­newed civil war.

"Ivory Coast has suf­fered too much in the past 10 years," he said. "I asked the Lord to help us find peace, but es­pe­cially give wis­dom to our lead­ers."

De­te­ri­o­rat­ing se­cu­rity in the for­mer French colony led France this week to urge its 13,000 cit­i­zens there to leave.

The West African re­gional cen­tral bank last week cut Gbagbo off from Ivo­rian ac­counts, wors­en­ing a cash crunch that could make it hard for him to con­tinue pay­ing the wages of sol­diers who back him.

The move came on the heels of a de­ci­sion by the World Bank to freeze some $800 mil­lion in com­mit­ted fi­nanc­ing.

Mil­i­tary sup­port for Gbagbo is re­garded as one of the main rea­sons he has been able to defy calls to step down.

Ivory Coast's $2.3 bil­lion bond due in 2032 fell to a record low last week as in­vestors wor­ried the coun­try would not meet a $30 mil­lion bond pay­ment on De­cem­ber 31. The turmoil in Ivory Coast has also sent co­coa prices to four­month highs, dis­rupt­ing ex­port reg­is­tra­tions and rais­ing fears that fight­ing could block trans­port and ship­ping. - Reuters

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.