News / Africa

AU Delegation Trying to Solve Ivory Coast Crisis

South African president Jacob Zuma (C), flanked by South African ambassador to Ivory Coast Lallie Ntombizodwa (R), shakes hands with African Union representative to Ivory Coast Ambroise Niyonsaba (L) as he arrives at Abidjan international airport on Febru
South African president Jacob Zuma (C), flanked by South African ambassador to Ivory Coast Lallie Ntombizodwa (R), shakes hands with African Union representative to Ivory Coast Ambroise Niyonsaba (L) as he arrives at Abidjan international airport on Febru

Heads of state from the African Union are traveling to Ivory Coast Monday in hopes of resolving the political crisis between rival governments there.  

Members of a high-level African Union delegation began arriving in Abidjan Monday to meet with the country's rival presidents, though many Ivorian’s remain doubtful that diplomacy will solve the violent post-election crisis, now nearing the end of its third month.

Incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo has refused to give up power, rejecting U.N.-certified election results that showed him losing a November presidential run-off to rival Alassane Ouattara.

Mr. Gbagbo claimed victory after the constitutional court annulled 10 percent of ballots cast.  Both the African Union and the regional bloc ECOWAS have recognized Mr. Ouattara as the winner of the vote.

Analysts have called the AU mediation efforts a last chance for Mr. Gbagbo to cede power gracefully.  The panel includes the leaders of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania, South Africa and Tanzania.

However, Burkina Faso's President Blaise Compaore is not part of Monday's delegation.  Mr. Compaore served as a regional mediator to Ivory Coast in the run-up to elections, and militant supporters of Mr. Gbagbo accuse him of favoring Mr. Ouattara.  The militants have rejected his presence on the panel and staged a demonstration Sunday at the airport.

The panel has one week to find a way to resolve the political standoff. The African Union says that resolution will be legally binding, though it has no means of enforcing the provision.

Mr. Gbagbo's government says the panel must not challenge the legitimacy of the constitutional council declaration that named him the winner in the election.  Mr. Ouattara's government says any power-sharing arrangement with Mr. Gbagbo is out of the question, and says it will not accept a recount of the ballots.

Mr. Ouattara's prime minister, Guillaume Soro, is calling on Ivorians to stage an Egypt-style revolution against Mr. Gbagbo.

Speaking Thursday in Dakar, Soro said he does not think the African Union panel will find a solution or be able to convince Mr. Gbagbo to leave power.  He says Mr. Gbagbo has gone too far to retreat now. He says the only thing Mr. Gbagbo is open to hearing is that he will be president in some kind of power-sharing agreement, which Soro said would be an anti-democratic move.

November's presidential election was meant to reunite the country following a 2002-2003 civil war. Instead, the United Nations says post-electoral violence has killed nearly 300 people.

Witnesses say Ivorian troops loyal to Mr. Gbagbo killed at least one anti-Gbagbo protestor in Abidjan Monday.  Security forces fired live rounds in the air and used tear gas to disperse similar anti-Gbagbo demonstrations over the weekend.

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