Three presidents from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are expected in Ivory Coast Monday to reiterate the regional bloc’s demand that embattled President Laurent Gbagbo leave power and give way to his rival Alassane Ouattara.
The leaders will be joined by African Union envoy and Kenyan Prime Minister, Raila Odinga.
Traveling with Sierra Leoneon President Ernest Bai Koroma is Information Minister Ibrahim Ben Kargbo who told VOA the West African leaders are not going to negotiate with Mr. Gbagbo.
Instead, Kargbo said the regional leaders are returning to tell the Ivorian leader to abide by the Christmas Eve ECOWAS declaration calling for him to step down.
“We are leaving this morning, Monday, heading for Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Yes, the President of Sierra Leone will be joined by the Presidents of Cape Verde and Benin to meet with Mr. Laurent Gbagbo and Mr. Ouattara once more consistent with the Christmas Eve communiqué circulated by the heads of state in Abuja,” he said.
Kargbo said the West African leaders are not going back to Abidjan to negotiate with Mr. Gbagbo.
“ECOWAS is merely attempting or trying to implement the communiqué circulated by the heads of state Christmas Eve and, in doing so, ECOWAS wants to make it very clear that there is no point of negotiation, as all the parties must adhere to the contents of the communiqué circulated by the heads of state on the 24th of December,” Kargbo said.
The international community, including the African Union, recognizes Mr. Ouattara as the country's new president.
Kargbo said Mr. Gbagbo and his supporters must respect the decision of Ivory Coast’s election commission, as well as the view of the international community.
“Don’t forget that the international community holds the view that Mr. Ouattara is the legitimate president of Cote d’Ivoire at the moment because the international community holds the view that it was Mr. Ouattara who won the election recently conducted in that country,” Kargbo said.
He did not rule out that ECOWAS will use force should Mr. Gbagbo refuse to step down.
“The legitimacy of ECOWAS is not in dispute at all and the determination of ECOWAS to bring this thing to an end is not (in) dispute at all. What is very clear is that ECOWAS wants to be very certain that everybody is given a fair chance, including Mr. Laurent Gbagbo, before a final decision is taken. But definitely, ECOWAS not prepared to negotiate on the issue as to who the president of Cote d’Ivoire (is) because it is so clear that Mr. Ouattara is considered the president of that country at the moment,” Kargbo said.