/ 1 February 2011

Leaders set deadline to solve Côte d’Ivoire crisis

African leaders set a one-month deadline to solve Côte d’Ivoire’s political crisis as they wound up a summit on Monday, vowing also to recognise the outcome of south Sudan’s secession vote.

Since the national elections in Côte d’Ivoire last year, the country has been gripped in battle between the two leaders who contested the elections — Alassane Ouattara and Laurent Gbagbo. The M&G spoke to the South African representatives of the two men to get both sides of the story.

The two-day African Union summit was dominated by the continent’s latest crises including the uprising in Egypt and the popular revolt in Tunisia that ended the 23-year regime of president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

The leaders appointed a five-member panel of heads of state tasked with finding a solution to the leadership crisis in Côte d’Ivoire within a month.

Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz will head the panel, which also includes his counterparts from Burkina Faso, Chad, South Africa and Tanzania.

Since the disputed November 28 presidential polls, Côte d’Ivoire has been locked in a crippling power struggle between incumbent strongman Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognised winner of elections.

Sudan poll
South Sudan’s landmark January 9 to 15 referendum was also lauded by the 53-member bloc, which pledged its “commitment to recognise the results of the poll and to throw its weight behind them”.

South Sudanese voted overwhelmingly to secede from the north, with complete preliminary results showing that close to 99% had opted for secession.

Salva Kiir, the south Sudan leader, told the summit that the region was waiting for the world community to acknowledge the outcome of the referendum.

“We expect this outcome to be confirmed by members of the international community, beginning with those present in this august assembly,” Kiir said.

Somalia still mired in conflict
On Somalia, AU Commission chief Jean Ping said the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), which is to come to an end in August, had failed to deliver on its mandate of reconciling and stabilising the war-ravaged nation.

He said that apart from signing a cooperation deal with a moderate Islamist group, the government had achieved little, but he also urged more support ahead of the administration’s expiry.

“The TFG has also been unable to establish national authority. It has not been able to effectively deliver on its governmental obligations, especially the provision of stability and delivery of social services to its constituency,” Ping added.

The Somali government, currently headed by President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, was formed in neighbouring Kenya in 2004 and was to have adopted a new constitution and organise elections during the transitional period.

The administration’s remit stretches to only a few streets of the capital Mogadishu, boxed in by a fierce Islamist insurgency and only survives because of the protection of AU forces there.

The pan-African bloc also endorsed Kenya’s bid seeking to delay the International Criminal Court’s trial of six people named as perpetrators of the violence that followed the 2007 polls and claimed about 1 500 lives.

Obiang voted as new chairperson
It approved “Kenya’s request to defer investigations and prosecution over the 2008 post-electoral violence with regard to article 16 of the ICC Rome Statute”.

Nairobi is seeking a UN Security Council vote to delay the cases as it prepares to try the suspects at home.

Under the Rome Statute that established the ICC, the Security Council can request the Hague-based tribunal to halt any proceedings for a year.

However the UN charter stipulates that this can only be done in exceptional cases of a serious threat to, or breach of, international peace — none of which applies to the ICC’s Kenyan case.

The African Union came under criticism during the summit for appointing Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, who came to power through a coup in 1979, as its new chairperson.

Critics said Obiang’s authoritarian rule and questionable human rights record are at odds with the AU’s democratic aspirations. – AFP