Ivory Coast leader has limited time to step down with impunity
abidjan, ivory coast — The defeated president of Ivory Coast has only days in which to leave power peacefully with immunity from prosecution, the prime minister appointed by his successful electoral rival said Saturday.
However, a senior aide to incumbent Laurent Gbagbo said that while the longtime leader was open to talks, his staying on as president was “nonnegotiable.”
Three presidents from theWest African regional bloc ECOWAS are planning a second round of talks with Gbagbo on Monday in an effort to persuade him to cede power to Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognized winner of a Nov. 28 election or face an ouster by force.
“ The message seems clear. This is the last chance for Mr. Gbagbo to get a peaceful departure from power and a guarantee of immunity,” Ouattara’s prime minister, Guillaume Soro, told reporters at the Golf Hotel, his rival government’s headquarters, protected by about 600 U.N. peacekeeping troops.
Earlier, a spokesman for Ouattara said ECOWAS must use military force soon or Gbagbo would become entrenched in power and become more difficult to remove.
Gbagbo has shown no sign of giving in to growing international pressure to step down as leader of the world’s leading cocoa grower since a top court, run by one of his allies, overturned the election result that gave Ouattara victory.
The United States says more than 200 people have been killed since the standoff, which has threatened to reignite a 2002-03 civil war. The United Nations has said Gbagbo may be criminally liable for human rights violations, including killings and kidnappings by security forces.
“We are ready for dialogue with ECOWAS,” Gbagbo’s campaign manager, Pascal Affi N’Guessan, said by phone. But Gbagbo “won’t leave. . . . We won’t negotiate on that question.”
The United States and the EuropeanUnion have imposed sanctions on Gbagbo and his inner circle, while the World Bank and the West African central bank have cut off his financing in an effort to weaken his grip on power.
ECOWAS defense chiefs met last week in Nigeria to work on a possible intervention plan.
“Neither sanctions nor international pressure have convinced Gbagbo to leave power,” Soro said. “I am calling for the use of legitimate force. We have yet to see a dictator leave power peacefully.”
A Gbagbo spokesman was not immediately available. Asked Friday if he would leave if ECOWAS moved to oust him, Gbagbo told Euronews television: “I will see. I’ll think it over. But for the moment it’s not an issue.”
Soro said he asked the New Forces rebels still occupying the north since the civil war not to intervene, but to support whatever force does arrive to remove Gbagbo.