ECOWAS alleges threat to Compaore in Cote d'Ivoire

Abuja, Nigeria (PANA) - The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has alleged a ''security threat'' against its facilitator for Cote d'Ivoire, President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso, by some supporters of outgoing President Laurent Gbagbo.

In a statement issued here Tuesday, the ECOWAS Commission said the threat, by the 'Young Patriots' of Cote d'Ivoire, prevented President Compaore from joining the 21-22 Feb visit to Abidjan of the African Union (AU) High-Level Panel for the Resolution of the Crisis in Côte d’Ivoire.

Also absent at the meeting was Ambassador James Victor Gbeho, President of the ECOWAS Commission.

The statement said the security threat was brought to the attention of the Panel in the evening of Sunday, 20 February 2011, while the latter was in consultation in Nouakchott, Mauritania.

''The threat was specifically directed at the person of the Facilitator reportedly by members of the “Jeunes Patriots” of Côte d’Ivoire who had commenced demonstrations in the streets.

''The Panel was relying on its ability to persuade one of the contestants in the disputed 28th November 2010 presidential run-off election to contain the mob action that had taken the character of invading the Houphouet Boigny International Airport in Abidjan and vowing not to vacate the installation until the mob was able to prevent the Facilitator from setting foot on Ivorian soil,'' it said.

However, ECOWAS Commission expressed surprise that, despite the threat which prevent the Facilitor from embarking on the trip, the Panel decided to go ahead with the trip to Abidjan ''without the participation of an important member, whose invaluable contribution to the peace process in Côte d’Ivoire deserves better appreciation and respect.

''In the circumstance, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, also a member of the High-Level Panel, declined the invitation to join the Delegation to Abidjan since the mob action was directed at ECOWAS,'' the Commission said.

While expressing the determination of the representatives of West Africa on the High-Level Panel to continue to cooperate with that body, the ECOWAS Commission said it cannot accept that the situation in Abidjan was conducive for such a critical mission and would, therefore, evaluate the work to be accomplished by the remaining members of the Panel at the appropriate time.

The ECOWAS Commission called on all parties concerned ''to respect the integrity of members of the Panel as well as the will of the Ivorian people as expressed in the presidential run-off election and endorsed by ECOWAS and the AU.

''The Commission wishes to put all those bent on exacerbating the already precarious situation in Côte d’Ivoire on notice that those responsible for abuses will be held individually and collectively accountable for their actions at the appropriate time,'' the statement said.

Gbagbo's refusal to step down despite losing to Alassane Ouattara in the 28 Nov. 2010 presidential runoff has thrown the world's top cocoa producer into turmoil.

The High-Level panel appointed by the AU is saddled with finding a peaceful solution to the lingering crisis, but analysts said the action has taken the steam off the widely-acknowledged role of the 15-member ECOWAS in ending the stalemate.
-0- PANA MON/SEG 22Feb2011

22 february 2011 14:35:10

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