West African leaders under pressure over Côte d’Ivoire

West African leaders met in a summit on Wednesday under pressure to take action over Côte d’Ivoire, with Laurent Gbagbo defying their earlier threats to use force and the country’s crisis deepening.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, the current chairperson of West African bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), said the two-day summit would consider whether to urge the United Nations to take further action on the crisis, but did not provide specifics.

“I believe we can pass a resolution to request the UN to take a little more serious steps on the Côte d’Ivoire situation,” Jonathan said of the 15-nation Ecowas, whose summit ends Thursday.

He also said at the summit opening: “I have no doubt we have the will, the commitment and the collective resolve to bring to an end the unfortunate crisis in Côte d’Ivoire, hopefully without resort to use of legitimate force.”

The talks at a hotel in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, come three months after Ecowas held an emergency summit at which it threatened to use force if Ivorian strongman Gbagbo did not step down peacefully.


Teetering on the brink of civil war
Gbagbo, deemed by his country’s election authority to have lost November polls, has remained defiant and Côte d’Ivoire teeters on the brink of civil war.

Ecowas has recognised Gbagbo’s rival, Alassane Ouattara, as president, as much of the world has also done, and suspended Côte d’Ivoire from the bloc. But the potential use of force seems to have been put on the back burner.

“Events in the country in the last few weeks are very worrying,” AU chief Jean Ping said in a speech read on his behalf by his chief of staff, John Shinkaiye.

“Violence is escalating. I urge that the opportunity of your summit be taken to again implore Mr Laurent Gbagbo to do what is right for his people and his country,” Ping said.

The AU leader had to skip the summit to address crises in Northern Africa, notably in Libya.

Asked at what point force would have to be used in the Ivorian crisis, Shinkaiye said, “I cannot speculate on that.”

“All I can say is that both Ecowas and the AU agree that the use of force will be our last resort after every other peaceful means have failed,” he said.

According to the UN, at least 440 people have been killed in the unrest since the presidential vote.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s special representative for West Africa, Said Djinnit, said at the summit opening that the UN peacekeeping force in Côte d’Ivoire was facing an increasingly dangerous job.

Both Djinnit and Ping spoke of the imminent appointment of an AU high representative to follow up on recommendations from a panel of African leaders on resolving the crisis.

Statement expected
The Ecowas summit, attended by the presidents of Liberia, Senegal, Benin, Mali, Togo, Cape Verde, Sierra Leone and Burkina Faso, as well as representatives from other nations, went behind closed doors after the opening speeches.

Officials familiar with the talks said a statement on Côte d’Ivoire was expected on Thursday.

Earlier this week, Nigerian Foreign Minister Odein Ajumogobia lashed out at the international community, saying the world’s focus had moved to Libya as the crisis worsened in Côte d’Ivoire.

Ajumogobia has said the UN must endorse any use of force to remove Gbagbo, adding that a blockade was an option if peaceful efforts fail.

That has raised questions over whether such a measure would face opposition at the UN Security Council from countries such as China or Russia.

The Ecowas summit will also review their suspensions of Guinea and Niger, both of which recently held elections to transfer power from military regimes. — AFP

Subscribe to the M&G

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.

Susan Njanji
Guest Author

Related stories

Editorial: Cyril must embrace his AU role

There are several African conflicts that require urgent attention

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

The October election season: Guinea, Tanzania and Cote D’Ivoire head to the polls

October is election month as three presidents seek another term in office. For two, it will be their third

We should not ignore Guinea’s constitutional coup

Citizens have for a year protested against the president seeking a third term in office despite a two-term limit. Many have been killed — and 90 more people died in this week’s crackdown

Manifesto against the presidency for life in Africa

If we do not take care, presidents will make lawlessness the standard of our civic life. Let’s make sure it does not come to that!

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
Advertising

Subscribers only

Dozens of birds and bats perish in extreme heat in...

In a single day, temperatures in northern KwaZulu-Natal climbed to a lethal 45°C, causing a mass die-off of birds and bats

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

More top stories

Eusebius McKaiser: Mpofu, Gordhan caught in the crosshairs

The lawyer failed to make his Indian racist argument and the politician refused to admit he had no direct evidence

Corruption forces health shake-up in Gauteng

Dr Thembi Mokgethi appointed as new health MEC as premier seeks to stop Covid-19 malfeasance

Public-private partnerships are key for Africa’s cocoa farmers

Value chain efficiency and partnerships can sustain the livelihoods of farmers of this historically underpriced crop

Battery acid, cassava sticks and clothes hangers: We must end...

COMMENT: The US’s global gag rule blocks funding to any foreign NGOS that perform abortions, except in very limited cases. The Biden-Harris administration must rescind it
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…