Mediators leave Côte d’Ivoire without deal

African mediators left Côte d’Ivoire without a breakthrough in the West African nation’s presidential vote crisis after the man the world says won, Alassane Outtara, said discussions were over.

The four African leaders’ efforts appeared to come to a head as they left Abidjan late on Monday after their latest talks with embattled incumbent Laurent Gbagbo, who is facing the threat of military action if he does not stand down.

“For us, the discussions are over,” Ouattara told journalists after meeting three presidents representing the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) and Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga for the African Union.

Ouattara, holed up in an Abidjan resort hotel protected by United Nations peacekeepers since the disputed November 28 presidential run-off, repeated his demands of Gbagbo.

“One, that he must recognise the results of the Independent Electoral Commission, two, that I am the elected president, Ivory Coast’s legitimate president, three that he must leave office as quickly as possible,” he said.

Côte d’Ivoire’s Independent Electoral Commission as well as the UN declared Ouattara the winner, while the Constitutional Council said that Gbagbo won.

Both men have been sworn in as president and Gbagbo has said there is an international plot to depose him.

“It has been a friendly discussion, you can see us all with smiles,” Sierra Leone President Ernest Koroma said after meeting Gbagbo for a final round of talks, along with Benin President Boni Yayi and Pedro Pires of Cape Verde.

“At this stage we can only say that discussions are ongoing,” Koroma added.

The mediators will now report back to current Ecowas head, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, in Abuja.

Decision pending
Jonathan has said that Ecowas will decide by Tuesday how to handle the impasse, amid unconfirmed reports of mass graves filled with Ouattara supporters since November’s vote.

With the clock ticking, a senior US State Department official said that Gbagbo, who has relatives in Atlanta, Georgia, could seek refuge there, but that the offer would not last long.

“We want to see him leave. If he wishes to come here, we of course would entertain that as a means of resolving the current situation,” the official said, requesting anonymity.

“But any opportunity to do that is an opportunity that is rapidly closing because of what is happening on the ground, and every indication we have at this point is that he’s digging in,” the official said.

Gbagbo, who retains control of the army, rejected an Ecowas attempt last week to persuade him to step down and end the crisis that has sparked international condemnation and fears of a civil war.

Gbagbo said in his New Year’s address that “we are not going to give up” and that calls for him to quit amounted to “an attempted coup d’etat carried out under the banner of the international community”.

Sierra Leone’s Information Minister Ibrahim Ben Kargbo said ahead of the talks that the envoys’ task was to “give Mr Gbagbo the necessary sweets to make it easy for him to step down … there is no compromise”.

West African regional military chiefs met in Abuja last week and set in motion plans to oust Gbagbo if negotiations fail, according to a Nigerian defence spokesperson.

A follow-up meeting to fine-tune the “last-resort” plan is scheduled for Mali on January 17 and 18.

Tensions have risen steadily since Gbagbo and Ouattara both claimed victory in the presidential run-off vote that it was hoped would end a decade of crisis in Ivory Coast but has instead sent thousands fleeing the West African nation.

Ouattara’s once-plush hotel is protected by a small contingent of lightly armed former rebel fighters known as the New Forces and 800 United Nations troops equipped with armoured vehicles and re-supplied by helicopter.

The UN says that at least 179 people have been killed in post-election violence but that it has been unable to fully investigate because of attacks on its personnel, while UN rapporteurs said they feared the violations being committed amounted to “crimes against humanity”.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told Ouattara in telephone talks that UN peacekeeping forces in the West African nation had been told “to do everything possible” to gain access to the alleged sites of mass graves, a spokesperson said. – AFP

Subscribe to the M&G for R2 a month

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

And for this weekend only, you can become a subscriber by paying just R2 a month for your first three months.

Christophe Koffi
Christophe Koffi
Social and environmental scientist, focused on forest, food security and climate change adaptation.

Related stories

The European companies that armed the Ivorian civil war

AN OCCRP investigation reveals that Gunvor and Semlex brokered weapons-for-oil deals in early 2011 when Côte d’Ivoire was in crisis, despite a UN arms embargo

Yes, Cote D’Ivoire’s president is running for a third term. But this time it’s different

COMMENT: A senior Ivorian government official argues that President Alassane Ouattara is within his rights to run again

Controversy dogs Drogba’s top-job attempts

Does Didier Drogba deserve to lead Cote D’Ivoire’s football association?

WHO: Half of Africa’s countries can still avoid a serious outbreak

But only if draconian border closures are accompanied by effective public health interventions

Elections test Africa’s democracy

Nine countries will go to the polls this year, but most will be held amid violence and suppression

Africa must tell the rest of the world that we are not their dumping ground

The continent has long received more than its fair share of the world’s toxic waste, endangering the health of people who are exposed to it

Subscribers only

Q&A Sessions: Frank Chikane on the rainbow where colours never...

Reverend Frank Chikane has just completed six years as the chairperson of the Kagiso Trust. He speaks about corruption, his children’s views and how churches can be mobilised

ANC: ‘We’re operating under conditions of anarchy’

In its latest policy documents, the ANC is self-critical and wants ‘consequence management’, yet it’s letting its members off the hook again

More top stories

‘Where the governments see statistics, I see the faces of...

Yvette Raphael describes herself as a ‘professional protester, sjambok feminist and hater of trash’. Government officials would likely refer to her as ‘a rebel’. She’s fought for equality her entire life, she says. And she’s scared of no one

Covid-19 stems ‘white’ gold rush

The pandemic hit abalone farmers fast and hard. Prices have dropped and backers appear to be losing their appetite for investing in the delicacy

Al-Shabab’s terror in Mozambique

Amid reports of brutal, indiscriminate slaughter, civilians bear the brunt as villages are abandoned and the number of refugees nears half a million

South Africa’s cities opt for clean energy

Efforts to reduce carbon emissions will hinge on the transport sector

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…