West African leaders to return to Ivory Coast "next week"

AFP, Wednesday 29 Dec 2010

West African leaders tasked with ending the Ivory Coast crisis will return to the country next week for further mediation

Cape Verde president
Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo (L) welcomes Cape Verde President Pedro Pires (R) at the Presidential Palace in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Tuesday 28 December 2010. (AP)

Three West African presidents charged with ending the post-election crisis in Ivory Coast will return to Abidjan "next week", the president's office in Cape Verde said Wednesday.

The leaders of Benin, Cape Verde and Sierra Leone flew to the Ivory Coast on Tuesday to warn strongman Laurent Gbagbo that he must cede power to his rival Alassane Ouattara or face regional military intervention.

On Wednesday, the troika went to Abuja to meet Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan, chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), to brief him on their mission and discuss the bloc's next step.

"The heads of state mission will return to Ivory Coast next week, to pursue its contacts and try to conclude the mediation process," Cape Verde President Pedro Pires office said, in a statement sent to AFP.

It said the "Ivorian parties" had asked for "time to reflect in order to find a viable way to conclude the electoral process, which is the only way to promote durable peace and stability in this West African country."

This stance differs from that taken by Ouattara's spokesman following the talks. Patrick Achi said Ouattara had told the envoys his status as head of state is "non-negotiable" and asked them to "return as soon as possible".

Both Gbagbo and Ouattara claim to have won Ivory Coast's November 28 presidential run-off, with the latter recognised by the international community, including ECOWAS and the United Nations.

Gbagbo's forces continue to dominate the south of the country, home to the world's largest cocoa-exporting industry and commercial capital Abidjan, while Ouattara's shadow government is blockaded inside his hotel headquarters.

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