African leaders selected for panel on Cote d'Ivoire crisis

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (PANA) - The African Union will select the respective heads of state chairing the five regional economic blocs to a Panel on Cote d’Ivoire that would work out a solution to the country's crisis, AU Commission Chairperson Jean Ping said here Saturday.

The high-level Panel on Cote d’Ivoire is expected to work out a binding solution to the presidential power-struggle in the West African nation within a month.

Its recommendations would be binding on incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo and his rival Alassane Ouattara, leaders affirmed here.

The panel will include Nigerian President Jonathan Goodluck, who is the Chairman of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS); Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba, chair of the South African Development Community (SADC) and Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD).

The others are Chadian President Idriss Deby, the current Chairman of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS). The Chadian leader also chairs the Community of the Sahel States (CEN-SAD), which suggested that a North African leader would be sought to fill the other post.

“We are going to use all means to avoid the use of force…you have never succeeded with the use of force, except in Sierra Leone,” Ping told journalists.

According to him, the panel would work to promote democracy in Cote d’Ivoire, thereby eliminating the option to use force to oust President Gbagbo, who has refused to step down for the officially-recognised Ouattara.

The two factions have sent representatives to the AU Summit, which opens here Sunday, with the issue of Cote d’Ivoire top on the agenda.

The full composition of the panel will be announced during Sunday’s opening session of the summit and following consultations with the United Nations on how it should progress on the Ivorian crisis.

Mauritanian President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, who chaired the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the AU at the Presidential level, said the panel would work for “social peace” in Cote d’Ivoire.

“For a very complicated issue like this, I believe it was a very quick decision taken by the PSC,” Ping told journalists earlier, dismissing suggestions of an impending power-sharing arrangement in Cote d’Ivoire.

The panel will be supported by a team of experts and will work with AU partners, particularly the UN.

Its mandate is to evaluate the situation and formulate, on the basis of the relevant decisions of the AU and ECOWAS, an overall political solution. Its work will be endorsed by Council.

The African leaders said since the recommendations of the panel would be binding on all the Ivorian parties, the final outcome “would have been negotiated.”

“We consider the winner to be Ouattara," Ping told a news conference, adding “we still have to work to preserve democracy and peace. It is clear, precise and clean.”
-0- PANA AO/BOS 29Jan2011

29 january 2011 16:48:30

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