In an interview with Al Jazeera, incumbent president of Cote d’Ivoire welcomes UN investigators.
|The army’s support for Gbagbo is seen as one of the main reasons he has been able to defy calls to step down [EPA]|
Allies of the man who the international community says won disputed presidential election in Cote d’Ivoire have called for a general strike they say will begin on Monday and last until the incumbent concedes defeat.
The planned strike is the latest form of pressure in the former Ivory Coast to try to force Laurent Gbagbo from the presidency nearly a month after the UN said his political rival, Alassane Ouattara, won the runoff vote.
Djedje Mady, who heads Ouattara’s electoral coalition, said it called on “all Ivorians and those who live in Cote d’Ivoire and believe in peace and justice to cease all their activities on Monday, December 27, 2010, until Laurent Gbagbo leaves power”.
Gbagbo has refused to leave despite international calls for his ouster, and West African leaders say they now will remove him by force if he fails to go.
Civil war fears
A spokesman for Gbagbo warned that civil war could break out in the country if a regional bloc carries out threats to force the disputed leader from power.
Ahoua Don Mello also called threats of military action from ECOWAS, the West African bloc of countries, “a Western plot directed by France” against Gbagbo.
“I think that the use of force is forbidden in the international relation of any country,” Yao Gnamien, Gbagbo’s special advisor, told Al Jazeera from Abdijan.
“It [force] is against the charter of the United Nations. The UN cannot use force against the president. The AU cannot use force against our president.
“The AU or the UN have to identify clearly what the purpose of the crisis and they have to sit down and solve the problem. Why do we have to use force?”
Cote d’Ivoire is locked in an election standoff in which 200 people have been killed. Gbagbo claimed victory in the presidential election on November 28 which the UN and many foreign governments say was won by rival Ouattara.
Gnamien said several West African countries had faced similar political problems “but we have never used force to solve this kind of problem”.
A Gbagbo government spokesman, Ahoua Don Mello, had earlier termed the move “very unjust”.
The UN says dozens of people have been killed in post-election violence in Cote d’Ivoire [Al Jazeera]
ECOWAS also said it would also send a special envoy to Cote d’Ivoire.
But Gnamien said any mission sent to Cote d’Ivoire to solve the impasse has to “identify the problem before proposing the solution”.
Meanwhile, an airplane belonging to Gbagbo has been reportedly confiscated at an airport in the Swiss city of Basel on Sunday, the French foreign ministry said, as part of measures to put pressure on him to step down.
A spokesman for the Switzerland’s civil aviation authority confirmed the aircraft is being prevented from flying back to Cote d’Ivoire following requests from the French government and Ouattara to seize it.
“Cote d’Ivoire’s legitimate authorities (Ouattara’s party) have asked us to ground the aircraft and it is precisely what we have done,” Bernard Valero, France’s foreign ministry spokesman, told the Reuters news agency.
The Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO) has cut off access to state funds for the Gbagbo government in a bid to force him to quit.
BCEAO made the decision in an emergency session, later saying that only representatives of Ouattara would have signing privileges on state accounts.
The move by the bank, which regroups the treasuries of eight West African countries, is expected to increase pressure on Gbagbo and complicate his efforts to pay civil servants and soldiers.
Allies of Ouattara hope the move will set the stage for mass defections if people do not get paid.
The UN General Assembly formally recognised Ouattara on Thursday as the winner of the presidential election. But even without the backing of the international community, Gbagbo controls the country’s military and dominates the state media.
Meanwhile, about 14,000 people have already fled Cote d’Ivoire for neighbouring Liberia, the UN says.