ECOWAS accuses South Africa, others of stalling Gbagbo's departure

Abuja, Nigeria (PANA) - The usually-frank ECOWAS Commission President, Ambassador James Victor Gbeho, Tuesday accused South Africa, among other unnamed African countries, of unilaterally supporting outgoing Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo, widely acknowledged to have lost the country's presidential election last November.

Shedding his diplomatic toga, Ambassador Gbeho specifically accused South Africa of stationing a naval frigate in the territorial waters of the West African nation, providing cover for Gbagbo to continue to defy the world.

''There is a South African warship docked in Cote d’Ivoire. I am surprised that South Africa can send a (naval) frigate to Cote d’Ivoire at a time like this,” he said at the ECOWAS headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria, at a ceremony in which the European Union (EU) Election Observation Mission to the 2010 presidential elections in Cote d’Ivoire formally presented
its report.

“The disappointment was that in spite of the solidarity of the AU and the international community, certain member States of AU came to the meeting (last AU Summit) and reopened the whole issues, judging that the ECOWAS made a mistake in accepting
Quattara as President.

''Up till now, no ECOWAS country has said that Quattara did not win. None has disputed that Quattara won. All the disputing are from outside the region. If we go like this, we will destroy the solidarity in our continent that has brought us this far. The solidarity that started among us is fast being eroded because certain countries are taking sides on the decision already taken. And this decision taken by ECOWAS was not taken lightly.”

He said the unilateral support given to Gbagbo has emboldened him to continue to defy the international community by refusing to vacate office for Alassane Quattara, the man globally believed to have won the election.

Ambassador Gbeho also explained that though ECOWAS has not taken a final stand on the use of force in removing Gbagbo, “force shall be a last resort. And even then, it will be legitimate.”

He said ECOWAS was following a roadmap for peace in the crisis-ridden nation.

“We pledged to follow a certain roadmap. And that is what we are following. ECOWAS is making one more attempt at peace but in case he is stubborn and refusing to go, ECOWAS will use other measures including legitimate force. ECOWAS has not imposed any sanction. But ECOWAS might as well use this. If sanctions fails, ECOWAS might as well use legitimate force,” the ECOWAS Commission President said.

Meanwhile, the EU Election Observation Mission to Cote d’Ivoire has declared that Ouattara was duly elected as President of Cote d'Ivoire as announced by the country's electoral commission.

The Chief Observer of the EU Election Observation Mission to Cote d’Ivoire, Mr. Christian Preda, who is also a member of the European Parliament, said at the presentation of the report that the decision of the Constitutional Council to announce Gbagbo as winner of the election is "a violation of the Ivorian legislation" and "abuse of power."

The presentation was witnessed by top officials of the ECOWAS Commission, ECOWAS Ambassadors and members of the diplomatic community based in Abuja, representatives of the UN mission in Cote d’Ivoire, civil society organizations and members of the ECOWAS Election Observer Mission to Cote d’Ivoire.

According to Preda, "the Ivorian law does not allow the Council to partially annul the election and modify the final results. According to the law, it can only cancel the election as a whole and order a rerun...The Council decision lacks proportionality and represents a violation of the right to vote as it annulled 664,405 votes, representing 16 per cent of the total number of voters, in order to proclaim the victory of incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo."

The Mission involves 120 observers from 23 member States of the EU, including Norway and Switzerland.
-0- PANA MON/SEG 8Feb2011

08 february 2011 14:53:08

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