Mbeki arrives for Ivorian mediation
Ex-South African president in Cote d'Ivoire on mission to resolve crisis following presidential vote.
Last Modified: 05 Dec 2010 11:07 GMT
Cote d'Ivoire, which endured civil war in 2002-2003, now has two men both claiming to be president [AFP]

Thabo Mbeki, the former South African president, has arrived in Cote d'Ivoire on a mediation mission aimed at resolving the political crisis engulfing the West African country.

Mbeki, working on behalf of the African Union, arrived on Sunday to try to solve a dispute over last week's presidential election which has seen both candidates take competing oaths of office, raising the prospect of violent clashes between rival supporters.

Laurent Gbagbo, the incumbent, was sworn in as president on Saturday despite the country's election commission declaring his rival, Alassane Ouattara the winner of the runoff.  

A top court in the country, loyal to Gbagbo, overturned the result after throwing out thousands of votes from areas that supported Ouattara over fraud claims.

 Laurent Gbagbo will take office on Saturday, despite losing last week's election [Reuters] 

The decision came despite the result of the election being certified by the United Nations, which did not have major concerns over the way it was conducted. 

The US, France and the UN called on Gbagbo to accept defeat, but the president, whose term ended in 2005 but has put off holding elections, went ahead with the inauguration in a ceremony boycotted by most foreign ambassadors.   

Hours later, Ouattara announced that he had held his own inauguration ceremony and swore in by email, announcing his intention to form a parallel government.

Guillaume Soro, the country's prime minister, resigned on Saturday in protest over Gbagbo's swearing-in, saying that the move "threatens the ideal of reunifying the country" after a civil war from 2002-2003. He handed his resignation to Ouattara, who he addressed as the nation's president.

Fears of violence

It had been hoped that the poll, the first in a decade, would restore stability to Cote d'Ivoire and reunite a country split into north and south after the civil war.

Instead, analysts fear the country is teetering on the brink of a new round of fighting, with former rebels lining up in support of Ouattara and the Ivorian military supporting Gbagbo.

New Forces rebel commander Cherif Ousmane warned that his followers would "not rest for long without doing something" about Gbagbo if he continues to hold power. He did not specify what that would entail.

Alassane Ouattara won 54 per cent of the vote, but a top court overturned his victory [AFP] 

Meanwhile, the Ivorian military has said it will carry out "any mission" given to it by Gbagbo, a top general announced on state television.

Small-scale protests and tyre-burning broke out on Saturday in several towns,and gunfire was heard in the largest city, Abidjan. At least 15 people have been killed in election related violence.

“The risk of violence between supporters of the two parties, as well as repression by Ivorian security forces against real or perceived supporters of Ouattara, is very high,'' Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch, said.

Hamadoun Toure, the UN's special envoy, told Al Jazeera that the 9,000 UN peacekeepers who are stationed in the country would be keeping to their existing mandate of "providing peace and security in the country" if violence over the standoff breaks out.

South Africa's ambassador to Cote d'Ivoire said that Mbeki will mediate between the two parties in an effort to avoid violence similar to that which engulfed Kenya following a disputed election result in 2007, when 1300 people were killed in ethnic bloodshed that displaced hundreds of thousands.

"A situation like Rwanda or Kenya would be a nightmare," Zodwa Lallie said.

Al Jazeera's Yvonne Ndege, reporting from Abijan, said that it was unclear how much influence Mbeki would have on the two parties. "From everything we can see here, it seems very unlikely that President Gbagbo will listen to Thabo Mbeki," she said. "He's in a very strong position, having been sworn in legally as the president." 

Al Jazeera and agencies
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