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Ivorian President Gbagbo Must Step Down, Says US Congressman

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James Butty

A U.S. Congressman says embattled Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo should be made to cede power because failure to do so would have a negative impact on the 16 or more other African countries that are likely to hold elections this year.

New Jersey Democratic Congressman Donald Payne, ranking member of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights, says it is unfortunate Gbagbo refuses to relinquish the presidency.

“I think that it is very disturbing and a trend in the wrong direction. I think it was pretty clear; 54 percent of the voters in Cote d’Ivoire voted for the insurgent candidate, Mr. [Alassane] Ouattara, and that it’s unfortunate that Mr. Gbagbo is refusing to relinquish the presidency, which he was not elected to,” he said.

Payne says the Obama administration and the international community, including the African Union, have done a good job in speaking with a near unanimous voice on the Ivorian political impasse.

“I think that they have. Actually, ECOWAS met early on and the African Union and IGAD [Intergovernmental Authority and Development] from the other side of the continent have all expressed the same view that Mr. Gbagbo should step down,” Payne said.

He says letting Gbagbo keep the presidency would have a negative impact on other African countries that are scheduled to hold elections this year.

“I think, if former President Gbagbo is allowed to stay in office, I think that it will send the wrong message. I think that Africa is going to take a tremendous step backward. So, I think that it is very important that Mr. Gbagbo is removed from office so that it does not send the message to all these other 16 elections coming up that you don’t have to observe the will of the people,” Payne said.

Payne also says AU mediators meeting in the Ethiopian capital should not settle for power-sharing because, he says, it has not worked where it has been tried in Africa, particularly in Zimbabwe and Kenya.

“No, I think it would be a wrong trend. It could become the way that incumbents stay in office. The power-sharing that had been done in Africa recently has not really been true power-sharing…Secondly, if you lose an election, you should step down. It’s not an election to see whether you should share power; it’s an election to see who wins the election and, therefore, who is the rightful leader of that country,” Payne said.

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