Gbagbo mediators to go 'extra mile'


UN troops from Niger patrol the streets of Abidjan, Ivory Coast (AP)

Mediators in the Ivory Coast political crisis have pledged to “go the extra mile” to negotiate Laurent Gbagbo’s removal from power to avoid bloodshed.

West African leaders have threatened to use military force to oust Mr Gbagbo, who has clung to power more than a month after the United Nations said he lost the presidential run-off vote to rival Alassane Ouattara.

Kenya’s prime minister, Raila Odinga, who joined a trio of West African leaders as the African Union’s envoy in recent talks, said mediation takes time, giving his own experience as an example.

Kenyan political rivals disputed the presidential poll results three years ago and violence broke out, with more than 1,000 people killed. It took two months to negotiate an end to that crisis.

In the case of Ivory Coast, the African Union and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are trying to get Mr Gbagbo to peacefully step down.

“But force, in our view, should be the last resort because as you know, use of force has consequences. Lives will be lost, not just lives of soldiers but also lives of innocent civilians,” Mr Odinga told journalists in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, following his visits to Ivory Coast and Nigeria this week. “That’s really the reason why we are walking the extra mile for a peaceful resolution of this conflict.”

Mr Odinga represented the African Union when a high-level delegation went on Monday for the second time to urge Mr Gbagbo to step down, but he rebuffed their appeal.

ECOWAS and the African Union released a statement late on Tuesday indicating that Mr Gbagbo had “agreed to negotiate a peaceful end to the crisis without any preconditions”.

But the statement did not detail what actions that would entail other than lifting a blockade around the hotel where his rival is based. The statement also called on Mr Gbagbo to hand over power “without further delay”.

Mr Odinga said that an amnesty deal is on the table for Mr Gbagbo that includes guarantees he will not be prosecuted if he peacefully hands over power whether he stays in Ivory Coast or goes into exile.

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