'SA did not notify ECOWAS of its warship deployment in Cote d'Ivoire'

Lagos, Nigeria (PANA) - ECOWAS insisted Friday that South Africa's deployment of a warship to Cote d'Ivoire, without notifying the regional bloc, amounted to offering unilateral support to outgoing Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo, in defiance of the global call on him to vacate office for Alassane Ouattara, the presumed winner of the country's presidential poll.

An ECOWAS Commission release, issued to clarify certain statements credited to its President, Ambassador James Victor Gbeho, earlier this week over the Ivorian crisis, said the ECOWAS boss stood by his earlier comments on the South African frigate that has docked in Cote d'Ivoire

Explaining Ambassador Gbeho's stand, the statement said ECOWAS was ''neither notified of the introduction of the vessel nor its use for peaceful purposes clarified to the regional authorities''.

It added: ''As the foremost regional organisation involved in finding a solution to the crisis in Cote d’Ivoire, ECOWAS could not help but be concerned about the presence of that unique asset in its region and at this time.

''Perhaps, what should be assured in future is a prompt flow of communication with the Regional Economic Community (REC) in similar situation. Such information helps to recognise and respect the competence of the particular REC in matters affecting peace and security in its region and avoids any unfortunate impression of impunity.''

South Africa has denied it sent the frigate to the West African nation to protect Gbagbo.

The statement insisted that ECOWAS has not taken a decision to invade Cote d’Ivoire for whatever reason, as has been alleged.

''ECOWAS decided in its communiqué issued on 24 December, 2010 to keep the issue of force as an option but only after all other peaceful avenues of persuading the out-going President, Laurent Gbagbo, to cede power to Alassane Ouattara should fail.

''Indeed, the language of the communiqué talks about having no option in such a circumstance but to resort to other means, including the use of legitimate force. This rendition presumes that there are other peaceful measures available to ECOWAS and that legitimate force shall be the option of last resort,'' it explained.

ECOWAS clarified that while it has accepted participation in the newly established High Level Panel of the African Union, it will not be party to the proposal to engage in a recount of the votes cast at the Ivorian election ''because the Peace and Security Council of the
AU itself, at its most recent meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, considered this proposal and rejected it''.

It said the main challenge facing the international community at this time ''is how to have power ceded to the rightful winner of the recent election and not to frustrate in any manner the true choice of the Ivorian electorate.

''It is a position of principle that ECOWAS is very much attached to for the sake of its own collective future.''
-0- PANA SEG 11Feb2011

11 february 2011 14:15:29

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