ECOWAS sends team to seek US/UN support for use of force against Gbagbo

Lagos, Nigeria (PANA) - ECOWAS is dispatching a powerful delegation to the United States and the United Nations to garner their support for a possible use of force to oust incumbent Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo, ECOWAS sources told PANA here Tuesday.

The three-member delegation comprises President Ernest Koroma of Sierra Leone, Foreign Minister of Nigeria and Chairman of ECOWAS Council of Ministers Odein Ajumogobia and the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Ambassador James Victor Gbeho.

The delegation, which is due to depart Tuesday (25 Jan), will meet with top US government officials in Washington on Wednesday (26 Jan) and then head to New York the following day (27 Jan) to meet with UN officials, before departing for the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Ajumogobia hinted on Monday that ECOWAS would require a UN Security Council resolution before it can activate the option of using 'legitimate force' to oust Gbagbo and make way for Alassane Ouattara, the man widely acclaimed to have won the 28 Nov. presidential runoff, to assume office.

''As the impasse deepens with each passing day and the direct threat to regional peace and security becomes more imminent,the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) requires unequivocal international support through an appropriate United Nations Security Council resolution to sanction the use of force.

''This is the only way to legitimize the use of external force to effectively contain the increasingly volatile internal situation and ensure an enduring peace in Cote d'Ivoire and the West African sub region,'' the Minister wrote in an editorial carried by several Nigerian newspapers.

ECOWAS previously dispatched another delegation to the UK and France which, like the US, are also permanent members of the UN Security Council.

Diplomatic efforts led by the 15-member regional bloc have so far failed to persuade Gbagbo to step down, meaning that the group may have no choice than to move to the next option, which is the use of force, despite the opposition to that option by at least two members - Ghana and Gambia.

Ajumogobia explained, however, that the use of 'legitimate force' , as agreed by ECOWAS leaders who met in Abuja, Nigeria, 24 Dec., does not necessarily translate to sending an invasion force to the cocoa-rich West African nation.

''The ECOWAS Authority resolution to consider the use of 'legitimate force' has perhaps not unexpectedly provoked some dissent. A growing number of commentators have observed that the ECOWAS has gone beyond its authority and should rather limit itself to a broad range of sanctions.

''The use of 'legitimate force' is however not exclusively about military warfare in the conventional sense and therefore does not necessary connote an "invasion" by troops. Legitimate force can include, for example, a naval  blockade to enforce sanctions which might be imposed against Mr. Gbagbo,'' the Nigerian Foreign Minister said.
-0- PANA SEG 25Jan2011

25 january 2011 09:43:41

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