Lau­rent Gbagbo clings to power in Ivory Coast

The Pak Banker - - 6i Nternational -

ABID­JAN: Lau­rent Gbagbo clung to power on Wed­nes­day as West African lead­ers con­ferred on what to do next af­ter he re­buffed their ul­ti­ma­tum to step down or face mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion.

The pres­i­dents of Sierra Leone, Benin and Cape Verde were to brief Nige­ria's pres­i­dent later Wed­nes­day in Abuja, Nige­ria, af­ter they left Ivory Coast with­out Gbagbo, whom they hoped to ac­com­pany into ex­ile. Nige­ria is the most pow­er­ful mem­ber of the 15-nation re­gional bloc ECOWAS, which has vowed to use "le­git­i­mate force" if Gbagbo does not re­lin­quish power.

The mil­i­tary op­tion ap­par­ently re­mained on the ta­ble for ECOWAS, which has sent com­bat troops to at least three African states in the past two decades. A big pro-Gbagbo demon­stra­tion planned for Wed­nes­day was post­poned to give lead­ers a chance to ne­go­ti­ate. Gbagbo's min­is­ter of youth and em­ploy­ment, Charles Ble Goude, who re­mains un­der U.N. sanc­tions for in­cit­ing vi­o­lence against for­eign­ers and the U.N., had called for the mass gath­er­ing but can­celed it. In a state­ment on state tele­vi­sion Tues­day, he said he wanted to "give diplo­macy a chance."

Ten­sions have es­ca­lated in Ivory Coast, the world's main co­coa pro­ducer. A crowd in a pro-Gbagbo neigh­bor­hood on Tues­day sur­rounded a small U.N. con­voy and wounded a peace­keeper with a ma­chete, the U.N. said. Gbagbo has or­dered peace­keep­ers out but the U.N. mis­sion in Ivory Coast said af­ter the at­tack that it "re­it­er­ates it's de­ter­mi­na­tion to pur­sue its work in the ser­vice of the Ivo­rian peo­ple."

The United Na­tions de­clared Gbagbo the loser by of pres­i­den­tial elec­tions on Nov. 28. The U.N., which was tasked with cer­ti­fy­ing the re­sults of the elec­tion, the United States and other world pow­ers have in­sist- ed Gbagbo leave the pres­i­dency. The re­gional del­e­ga­tion led by pres­i­dents from Sierra Leone, Cape Verde and Benin met sep­a­rately with Gbagbo and in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized win­ner Alas­sane Ou­at­tara, then met Gbagbo a sec­ond time late Tues­day be­fore leav­ing the coun­try with­out is­su­ing a state­ment. Gbagbo still main­tains con­trol of Ivory Coast's mil­i­tary and se­cu­rity forces. Some an­a­lysts feel an ECOWAS mis­sion in Ivory Coast would en­tail a full-scale in­va­sion, caus­ing nu­mer­ous civil­ian ca­su­al­ties.

Post­elec­tion vi­o­lence has al­ready left at least 173 peo­ple dead, ac­cord­ing to the United Na­tions. The U.N. said it has been un­able to in­ves­ti­gate re­ports of a mass grave be­cause of re­stric­tions on U.N. per­son­nel move­ments.

Gbagbo has been in power since 2000 and has al­ready over­stayed his man­date by five years be­cause the elec­tion was re­peat­edly de­layed un­til Oc­to­ber, with the runoff com­ing last month. The elec­tion was meant to help re­unify a coun­try that was di­vided by a 20022003 civil war into a rebel-con­trolled north and a loy­al­ist south, but Ivory Coast now stands again at the brink of war.

The re­gional lead­ers had hoped to per­suade Gbagbo to leave Ivory Coast with them af­ter their one-day mis­sion, say­ing he would be of­fered asy­lum in neigh­bor­ing coun­tries.

The French govern­ment says its forces in this for­mer French colony will pro­tect French cit­i­zens but won't be mak­ing any de­ci­sions about an in­ter­na­tional mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion.

Late Tues­day, Gbagbo's al­lies lashed out on state tele­vi­sion at na­tions that have rec­og­nized Ou­at­tara's rep­re­sen­ta­tives as Ivo­rian am­bas­sadors. In a state­ment, Gbagbo's camp said it re­serves right to out am­bas­sadors of coun­tries that rec­og­nize Ou­at­tara's en­voys. -Ap

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.