As another diplomatic attempt in Ivory Coast fails, African forces weigh military action
Diplomatic options in Ivory Coast are running out after a group of African leaders failed to convince the incumbent president to step down and regional forces said they were beginning to discuss military strategies.
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The comments could signal the start of a more serious stage in Ivory Coast's political crisis, as African leaders switch from a diplomatic strategy to weighing stronger measures, including military action.
"ECOWAS [a 15-member West African bloc] will need to use all the means at its disposal, including the use of legitimate force, so that the president that was elected can assume his functions."
ECOWAS, the United Nations, the US, and former Ivory Coast colonizer (and largest foreign investor) France all insist that Ouattara won the Nov. 28 presidential election and that incumbent Laurent Gbagbo should step down. But Gbagbo is demanding a recount and has refused to accept the election outcome. He has the armed forces on his side, while Ouattara is holed up at a UN-protected luxury hotel with his shadow government and supporters.
ECOWAS has threatened to use force to remove Gbagbo from office, according to the AP, and a spokesman for the group said defense chiefs from the group began discussing strategies for an assault last week.
Some fear Gbagbo's stubborn refusal to step aside could push this West African cocoa producer back into civil war, and destabilize the region.
An intervention by regional forces could also throw Ivory Coast into chaos, as observers doubt whether an African military force would be up to the job of quickly removing Gbagbo and his armed forces with minimum bloodshed.
Eight people died in new violence Monday, according to Xinhua, and the UN has put the death count from election-related violence at 170, with 19,000 fleeing to neighboring countries to escape the unrest.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg quoted Ouattara spokesperson Patrick Achi as saying that Ivory Coast failed to meet a $30 million interest payment on its Eurobonds holdings and did not pay civil servants in December, signs that Gbagbo's regime is painting itself into a financial corner.
“It is not surprising that Gbagbo did not pay the coupon,” Achi said by phone late yesterday from Abidjan, the commercial capital. “Tax and custom incomes have dropped, and there is no money anymore in the state’s reserves.”