No progress in Cote d’Ivoire talks

African leaders fail to persuade the incumbent president to cede power to rival Alassane Ouattara.

Kenya-Raila Odinga-Cote d''Ivoire

Talks with Laurent Gbagbo have yet to yield results but envoys say they are set to continue    [EPA] 

African leaders have ended meetings in Cote d’Ivoire without persuading Laurent Gbagbo to cede power to his rival Alassane Ouattara, but the talks will go on, one of the envoys has said.

West African heads of state Boni Yayi of Benin, Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, Pedro Pires of Cape Verde and Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who represented the West African regional bloc ECOWAS and the African Union (AU), left Abidjan on Monday night after meeting with both Gbagbo and Ouattara.

Miguna Miguna, Odinga’s special advisor, told Al Jazeera that it was difficult to say exactly whether or not they were any closer to a resolution.

“The latest news is that president Gbagbo has actually turned down the offers that were made by the three presidents and the prime minister of kenya,” Miguna said.

“As of now there is a stand off, and it up to the African Union and the international community to make a decision as to what they are going to do with Gbagbo’s refusal.”

Gbagbo, in power since 2000, has so far refused to concede that he lost the November 28 election to Ouattara, despite widespread international condemnation and the threat of force to oust him after UN-certified results showed Ouattara won.

No sign of bowing

“We have had very, very important meetings … At this stage we can only say the discussions are ongoing,” Koroma said after the meetings ended.

“When discussions are ongoing, you don’t expect anything to be concluded (yet),” he added as the group headed for the airport. No other details emerged from the talks.

Asked if the mission would repeat an ultimatum for Gbagbo to leave or face force, ECOWAS Cote d’Ivoire representative Doukoure Abram said earlier: “No, there will be discussions going on.”

Odinga’s office said the Kenyan prime minister would “seek a peaceful settlement to the election crisis (…) and seek an assurance of safety and security for Mr. Laurent Gbagbo and his supporters, if he agrees to cede power”.

But Gbagbo, who has the backing of the country’s top court and the army, has shrugged off pressure to step down and said on state television over the weekend that Ouattara “should not count on foreign armies to come and make him president.”

Washington has said it endorses the ECOWAS initiatives and hopes Gbagbo will go soon. A senior US official said there seemed to be little hope of a quick resolution.

“This is likely to take some time to resolve itself,” the official said. “If President Gbagbo is looking for a dignified exit, we remain open to help him with that. But there’s no indication that he’s prepared to leave at this point…. Every indication we have at this point is that he is digging in.”

Threats and boycotts

Nearly all African leaders have backed Ouattara. But Angola, the only African nation to send an ambassador to Gbagbo’s swearing in, accused foreign nations of “inciting other countries in the region to start a war.”

The United States and the European Union have imposed a travel ban on Gbagbo and his inner circle, while the World Bank and the regional West African central bank have frozen his finances in an attempt to weaken his grip on power.

ECOWAS has said it could use “legitimate force” if Gbagbo refuses to go quietly.

But West African leaders are seen as unlikely to carry out the threat to use force because of the risk of being bogged down in an urban war and the potential reprisals on millions of people from Ghana, Nigeria and Burkina Faso living in the Ivory Coast.

Nigeria, which has the region’s biggest army, has its own growing security problems and its own elections in April.

The UN has said Gbagbo may be criminally responsible for human rights violations, including killings and kidnappings by security forces since the election.

More than 170 people have been killed since the disputed election. The crisis threatens to restart fighting in a country still divided by a 2002-03 civil war.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies