/ 17 February 2010

Côte d’Ivoire urged to preserve peace at all costs

A summit of West African leaders on Tuesday told politicians in Côte d’Ivoire to preserve the fragile peace after last week’s surprise sacking of the Cabinet and the head of an electoral agency.

Leaders meeting under the aegis of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) said the dissolution of the Cabinet in the cocoa-rich country risked delaying the repeatedly postponed elections.

“They called on the Ivorian political class to do everything possible to preserve the peace process,” said a statement at the end of day-long closed-door talks in Nigeria.

In a shock decision Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo on Friday sacked the government and asked Prime Minister Guillaume Soro to form a new administration.

Gbagbo also dismissed the head of the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI), alleging that more than 400 000 names had been fraudulently added to the electoral rolls.

The opposition said most of them are from northern ethnic groups who are anti-Gbagbo.

Election delays
“The heads of state expressed their concern over the recent dissolution of the Cabinet and the independent electoral commission which they said would further delay the elections,” said the statement.

Soro’s former rebel New Forces (FN) on Tuesday reaffirmed their commitment to a Burkina Faso-brokered peace pact signed in 2007 and backing for their leader at a meeting in their stronghold of Bouake, attended by the prime minister.

The FN seized northern Côte d’Ivoire in 2002 before clinching a peace deal with Gbagbo giving them a share of power.

Gbagbo has remained in power for 10 years without seeking a second mandate after deferring elections six times.

The sudden sackings cast doubt on the divided west African country’s ability to hold scheduled elections next month, which are designed to unify a nation that has been split in two following a failed 2002 coup. — AFP