Gbagbo 'likely to seek refuge in SA'

South Africa, Togo and Angola are possible safe havens for Côte d’Ivoire’s besieged Laurent Gbagbo should he negotiate an exit from his West African country, African Union sources said on Wednesday.

“South Africa has offered several times before and Togo is now indicating to us that it could be willing to take him in,” a senior AU official told Reuters.

“Togo is not a great option, though, as there will obviously be fears that he could cause problems and spoil peace from there—it’s so close to Côte d’Ivoire. I’m betting strongly on South Africa,” said the official, who declined to be named.

Two other diplomats in Addis Ababa also said on Wednesday they had heard South Africa and Togo had made asylum offers.

Forces loyal to Côte d’Ivoire’s presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara launched a heavy and sustained attack on Wednesday on the bunker where Gbagbo was defying efforts to force him to surrender and leave the country.

The former colonial power, France has taken a lead role in talks to persuade Gbagbo to hand over to rival Ouattara and end a four-month standoff over a November election that United Nations-certified results say Ouattara won.

Another diplomat at the AU in Addis Ababa said Angola was a strong possibility.

“Angola has always been pro-Gbagbo,” one Western diplomat said. “I think there’s a good likelihood of Angola taking him in if there’s a settlement.
You only have to look at their history.”

The UN said in March it was investigating suspected arms transfers to Côte d’Ivoire in breach of an embargo, including a cargo delivery from Angola.

There were also regular reports in 2002 that Angola supplied arms including armoured vehicles to Côte d’Ivoire when rebels tried to oust Gbagbo from the presidency.

Angola has denied that mercenaries from the country have fought for Gbagbo.

Diplomats at the AU headquarters in Ethiopia said Uganda was an outside bet to shelter the Ivorian strongman. Long-serving President Yoweri Museveni earlier this year attacked the United Nations for recognising Ouattara as the election winner.

Museveni, who won a disputed presidential poll in February and faced possible opposition protests, said there should be an investigation into the Côte d’Ivoire poll.

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