Ivory Coast official says only force can resolve stalemate
Nigeria president to make latest try at negotiation
ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast — A top ally of Alassane Ouattara, the man widely recognized as Ivory Coast’s president, said incumbent Laurent Gbagbo is using stalling tactics to stay in power and urged the international community yesterday to intervene with “legitimate force’’ to remove him.
Meanwhile, Gbagbo supporters who were called on to remove Ouattara from a hotel on New Year’s morning failed to materialize as United Nations riot police guarded the hotel’s entryway in full crowd-control attire.
Ouattara’s prime minister, Guillaume Soro, said Gbagbo would only leave power by force and that the international community will have to intervene to protect democracy in Africa. He dismissed as a delay tactic Gbagbo’s offer to invite an international investigation into the country.
“It was this same type of distracting proposition that he used to hold on for five years without an election,’’ Soro said. “Enough is enough. Mr. Gbagbo must leave power.’’
President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria, who holds the rotating presidency of the Economic Community of West African States, is due in Abidjan tomorrow to negotiate Gbagbo’s departure. That group has threatened to use military force to remove Gbagbo if he doesn’t leave freely, but it failed to persuade him to go into exile when its first delegation came to Ivory Coast on Monday.
The UN has said the volatile West African nation faces a real risk of return to civil war, but Soro said war has already begun.
“In any country that records more than 200 dead in five days, as the UN has certified, it’s war,’’ he said. “When a country experiences a massive population flight of the population — more than 20,000 Ivorians who leave their country to seek refuge in a country like Liberia — it’s war.’’
Human rights groups accuse Gbagbo’s security forces of abducting and killing political opponents, though Gbagbo allies deny the allegations and say some of the victims were security forces killed by protesters. The UN has confirmed at least 173 deaths.
Gbagbo gave an address late Friday on state television in which he accused the international community of mounting a coup d’etat to oust him and said Ivorians were being subjected to international hostility.
“No one has the right to call on foreign armies to invade his country,’’ Gbagbo said. “Our greatest duty to our country is to defend it from foreign attack.’’
The United Nations had been invited by all parties to certify the results of the Nov. 28 presidential runoff vote. The UN declared Ouattara the winner, endorsing the announcement by the country’s electoral commission. But Gbagbo has refused to step aside now for more than a month, defying international condemnation and growing calls for his ouster.
The European Union said late Friday that it had approved sanctions on 59 more people, in addition to 19 already sanctioned last week including Gbagbo and his wife.
Gbagbo and about 30 of his allies also face US travel sanctions, though such measures have typically failed to reverse illegal power grabs in Africa in the past.
West African leaders have said they are prepared to use military force to push Gbagbo out, but they are giving negotiations more time for now. For many, the credibility of the international community is at stake if it is unable to ensure that Ouattara takes power.