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African Union leaders divided about Ivory Coast intervention

The theme at this week's annual African Union summit is 'shared values,' but it's clear there is little shared vision for how to handle the increasingly violent post-election crisis in Ivory Coast.

By Scott BaldaufStaff Writer / January 26, 2011

Members of Ivory Coast's Young Patriots youth movement took part Wednesday in a demonstration to show support for incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo near the US embassy in the commercial capital, Abidjan.

Thierry Gouegnon/Reuters

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Johannesburg, South Africa

Call it the Coalition of the Unwilling.

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A growing number of African nations are backing away from calls for military intervention in Ivory Coast, as a months-long political stalemate over who should rule the country pushes that country back to the brink of civil war.

Two men, incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo and opposition leader Alassane Ouattara claim to have won the Nov. 28 runoff elections, although the country’s election commission, the United Nations, the European Union, the African Union, and most countries other than Zimbabwe have accepted Mr. Ouattara’s victory with 54 percent of the vote.

The stalemate has turned violent, with pro-Gbagbo forces linked to hundreds of summary executions of human rights activists and Ouattara supporters. A large United Nations peacekeeping force protects the Golf Hotel in the country’s capital of Abidjan, where Ouattara has begun taking on the responsibilities of president.

With an African Union summit planned for this coming weekend, regional leaders have begun a feverish last-minute lobbying campaign, pushing either for AU intervention or against it. With or without military intervention, success in resolving the brewing conflict in Ivory Coast could determine if Africa is prepared to solve its own problems.

Resistance to using force

Last week, as the Nigerian government urged the United Nations Security Council to sanction an AU military intervention in Ivory Coast, South African president Jacob Zuma hinted that Ivory Coast might become yet another experiment in power-sharing. In a joint press conference with visiting Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Mr. Zuma told reporters he still had hope for diplomacy.

“We are hoping that the AU will be able to resolve the matter and convince the parties,” he said. “Our view is that we need to do something to help the situation and don't demand that one leader should go.”

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