As Ivory Coast fighting escalates, window for talks narrows
An African Union panel is to meet Wednesday about Ivory Coast's crisis. Supporters of President-elect Alassane Ouattara and former President Laurent Gbagbo are clashing, and pro-Ouattara forces have taken control of several towns along the Liberian border.
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While Gbagbo’s supporters refers to Ouattara’s supporters as “rebels,” much of the international community agrees that the overwhelming electoral majority that Ouattara won in the Nov. 28, 2010 elections gives him and his supporters the right to serve as the new government. The AU itself endorsed Ouattara’s victory, with at least a 10 percent margin over Gbagbo, although some members of the AU fact-finding mission – notably South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma – have called the election results “inconclusive.”Skip to next paragraph
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Nonsense, says the Brussels-based think-tank International Crisis Group. “There is no doubt Ouattara won the runoff,” Crisis Group says in its latest report, dated March 3. “In an attempt to reverse the result, however, the Constitutional Council – the country’s highest court but entirely controlled by the Gbagbo camp – claimed to have discovered widespread violence and fraud – largely imaginary – in seven departments of the northern and central regions where Gbagbo had received less than 10 per cent of the votes in the first round. It thus cancelled more than 660,000 second-round votes, enough to raise his total from 45.5 per cent to 51.4 per cent.”
South Africa’s intervention is unhelpful, the International Crisis Group says. “Their positions on a crisis whose complexity they appear not to have fully grasped are compromising their credibility on the continent and beyond and undermining trust between ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States) and the AU.”
In Paris this weekend to meet French President Nicholas Sarkozy, South African President Zuma was being asked questions about the reasons for South Africa’s change of policy on Ivory Coast when Zuma’s press handler abruptly ended the press conference, saying there was a “security threat.”
Business Day, a South African daily, quoted a diplomatic source, saying it was “a bit strange” that a security threat was declared just moments after questions about Ivory Coast were asked. French security preparations, which are quite strict during state visits, presumably would have ensured Zuma’s safety.