Weary Abidjan residents expectant as Gbagbo surrender talks continue

Accra, Ghana (PANA)
– Weary residents of the Ivorian commercial capital of Abidjan are expectant as reports of talks for the surrender of incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo fill the air, according to information monitored in neighbouring Ghana.

Residents have been subjected to tense moments since last Thursday night when forces loyal to the internationally recognised president Alassane Ouattara entered the city to push for a military solution to the political stalemate following the controversial presidential run-off elections in November last year that was claimed by the two men.

There have been heavy fighting since last Friday as pro-Ouattara forces tried to capture the heavily defended strategic areas of the state television station, the presidential palace, the presidential residence and army barracks from Gbagbo's forces.

In the end, it took the assistance of French and UN aerial bombardment on Monday night to bring Gbagbo close to signing his surrender and possible departure from the country.

Abidjan residents say they are cautiously optimistic that the fighting has come to an end. The night has been quiet, they say, and there is no more fighting although there is sporadic gunfire at some places.

“There is no sound of heavy gunfire,” according to one resident. “We are all eager to hear that Gbagbo has surrendered and that the war is over.”

Gbagbo is holed up in the bunker of the presidential palace as talks continue with all parties, including his generals, Ouattara's forces, the French and United Nations, which has had a peacekeeping force there for several years.

“We have run out of water and food. There is no electricity, life is very difficult,” the resident said.

Tens of  thousands of people have fled the fighting and live in neighbouring Liberia and Ghana while a lot more people have been displaced internallyas they seek solace.

Meanwhile, the African Union (AU) confirmed on Tuesday that the embattled Ivorian leader was engaged in talks with Mauritanian President Mohamed Abdel Aziz and several African leaders for his possible exit from power.

The Peace and Security Council (PSC), which received a briefing on the ongoing talks for Gbagbo’s exit from the country, has welcomed the development.

It urged all the parties to support the negotiations for the Gbagbo's exit.

PSC members met in Addis Ababa on Tuesday to discuss the evolving situation in Cote d’Ivoire and appreciated the efforts being made by the President of Mauritania, in cooperation with other African heads of state.

AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Ramtane Lamamra, who briefed the Council on the ongoing negotiations, said it was the understanding of the Mauritanian leader that Gbagbo would possibly leave the country after the talks.

The Council urged support for the initiative, which it saw as a critical step towards bringing an end to the bloodbath and to peacefully resolve the current crisis.

Meanwhile, the PSC said it was deeply concerned over the grave humanitarian consequences caused by the deterioration of the security situation in Cote d’Ivoire, resulting from the intensification of the military efforts there.

Cote d'Ivoire's latest political crisis started in December last year when the Electoral Commission declared Ouattara winner of the 28 November presidential run-off poll.

However, the Constitutional Council cancelled hundreds of thousands of votes from Ouattara's northern stronghold and declared Gbagbo the winner.

The international community, from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the AU, European Union and UN, said Ouattara won and asked Gbagbo to hand power to him. However, he refused leading to the military action and bloodbath.
-0- PANA MA 5April2011

05 april 2011 20:55:59

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