News / Africa

Former Nigerian President in Ivory Coast to Mediate Political Crisis

Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, center, leaves his hotel for a meeting with incumbent Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, center, leaves his hotel for a meeting with incumbent Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo is in Ivory Coast for talks with the country's rival presidents. The West African regional alliance is threatening military action to remove the incumbent president if he does not yield power to the internationally-recognized winner of the vote.

Mr. Obasanjo has met with both incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo and former prime minister Alassane Ouattara, who Ivory Coast's electoral commission certified as the winner of November's vote.

Both men have taken rival oaths of office and now lead competing governments in Abidjan - Gbagbo in the presidency, Ouattara in a resort hotel guarded by U.N. peacekeepers.

The Economic Community of West African States, the European Union, the United States, and the African Union are all calling for Gbabgo to yield power to Ouatarra. Gbagbo says he has no intention of leaving office and chaired his first Cabinet meeting of the year this past week to review plans to improve the economy.

Obasanjo is thought to be carrying a message from Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who is the current head of the West African alliance. That group says it is considering military action to remove Gbagbo if he does not yield power.

While Gbagbo says he is open to further negotiations without preconditions, West African leaders say that promise does not weaken their demand that he leave power. So the focus of those further talks appears designed to arrange Gbagbo's departure.

Obasanjo appears an unlikely emissary for such a task. Obasanjo was instrumental in convincing former Liberian President Charles Taylor to leave power for asylum in Nigeria when Obasanjo was then president. Mr. Taylor was ultimately handed over to the International Criminal Court where he is facing charges of war crimes in The Hague.

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