South Africa's now-neutral stance on Ivory Coast infuriates president-elect's camp
South African President Jacob Zuma is set to go to Ivory Coast this weekend in a bid to negotiate a powersharing agreement that will pull the country back from the brink of another civil war.
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South Africa's International Relations Minister Maite Nkoane-Mashabane said that South Africa had the “prerogative” to change its mind. “I don't know if, when they are asking us to find a way forward, we should be stagnating and taking them backward," she said.Skip to next paragraph
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A step back?
If Gbagbo and Ouattara do agree on a powersharing agreement, however, they will essentially be stepping backward into the same uneasy coalition government of national unity that they had formed in the leadup to the long-awaited Nov. 28 election.
That vote was intended to be the final step toward normalization, after a punishing 2002-2003 civil war split the country between the mainly Muslim north and the mainly Christian south. Just how another government of national unity will bring lasting peace to Ivory Coast – or justice to the victims of political violence in the aftermath of the vote – is unclear.
An estimated 200 of Ouattara’s supporters, along with some journalists, have disappeared in the post-election crisis and are thought to be dead. The Associated Press claims to have obtained evidence of mass killings, including 113 bodies at Abidjan’s main morgue, bodies that have not been released to families.
“The violence is absolutely continuing, and we get reports of ongoing violence every day,” says Corinne Dufka, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, based in Dakar, who recently conducted a study of political killings in Abidjan. “We could safely say that there are scores of people in the morgues who have not been buried and who are victims of political violence, the vast majority of whom appear to have been killed by forces loyal to [Gbagbo].”
The growing death toll in Ivory Coast caused Jose Moreno-Ocampo, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court at the Hague, Netherlands, to warn both sides against committing human rights violations.
"If they start to kill people, then it's a crime and we will pursue them," Mr. Moreno-Ocampo told France 24 news channel. "The reality is that some people in Ivory Coast are planning attacks and we know that. And I want to tell them clearly, if you do that ... you will be prosecuted. That's a clear message."
Numerous African leaders – including Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, and former South African President Thabo Mbeki – have attempted in the past few months to kickstart a negotiation process, exploring all options, including a possible powersharing agreement. All such efforts have failed.