- Category: Politics
- Published on Sunday, 09 January 2011 19:57
- Written by AP
- Hits: 1030
Former president, Olusegun Obasanjo was shuttling between meetings Sunday with the Ivory Coast's defiant president who refuses to cede power and the internationally recognized presidential election winner in the latest effort to resolve the post-election crisis.
Incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo has remained in office, insisting that he won — a victory handed to him by loyalists on the constitutional council who canceled half a million votes from his opponent's strongholds.
The international community has been unanimous in recognizing Alassane Ouattara as the winner of the Nov. 28 election because the results were certified by the United Nations following a 2005 peace deal, which gave the U.N. the authority to review results and independently verify the winner in a safeguard meant to prevent any party from attempting to steal the election.
Gbagbo has since asked the United Nations peacekeeepers to leave Ivory Coast, accusing them of being part of a "Franco-American plot" to destabilize Ivory Coast.
Obasanjo met with both parties late Saturday after arriving in Ivory Coast on an unannounced visit. He met with Gbagbo and Ouattara again early Sunday, and was due to meet both of them again in the afternoon. A source close to the discussion, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter, said that an amnesty package for Gbagbo was still on the table, which would give the incumbent president a "golden parachute" if he chooses to stand down this week including possibly an exile abroad and a monthly salary.
Obasanjo, the source said, is also repeating the warning that if Gbagbo does not cede power he faces a military ouster led by the military wing of the regional Economic Community of West African States, representing 15 neighboring nations. ECOWAS has previously mounted armed interventions in Sierra Leone and Liberia, though the move in Ivory Coast is controversial because the nation is a magnet for immigrants from other African countries and Gbagbo's minister of youth has insinuated that any armed move will prompt retaliatory attacks against foreigners living in the country.
In 2004, thousands of French citizens were evacuated when anti-French riots broke out, during which French and Lebanese women were gang-raped.
Because Gbagbo's troops have sealed off the roads leading to the hotel, the only way to reach the man considered by the world to be the president-elect is by a United Nations-chartered helicopter, landing on the hotel's back lawn.
So far three delegations of African leaders have come to see Gbagbo, but all attempts at mediation have failed. However, Ouattara's government says that Obasanjo carries a different weight, since he is a former military leader and he is coming on behalf of the government of Nigeria, whose current president chairs ECOWAS.
"In diplomacy you can say things very nicely. Or you can say it by being mean. He is here to say it in the mean way," said a senior aide to Ouattara, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
Experts say the only way to make him leave may be through force, but they question whether the military arm of ECOWAS has the manpower and the sophistication to carry out a so-called "decapitation strike."
The lynchpin in the decision is Nigeria, which has one the largest standing forces in the region and whose troops have been sent to intervene in other regional conflicts including during the Liberian civil war.