Ping deflects criticism, defends Mbeki's appointment as Ivorian mediator

Algiers, Algeria (PANA) - African Union Commission chief Jean Ping Sunday defended his recent appointment of former South African President Thabo Mbeki to mediate in the political crisis in Cote d’Ivoire, saying he had a better chance of success.

Those opposed to Mbeki's appointment said that as a ‘friend’ of incumbent Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo, he cannot be trusted to
broker a peace deal in the West African nation, which is sliding into another crisis with Gbagbo and opposition candidate Alassane Ouattara both laying claims to the presidency, following the 28 Nov. presidential run-off.

Mbeki was named the chief mediator in the ensuring political crisis, triggered by Gbagbo's refusal to step down after the electoral commission announced Outtara winner of the election.

On the strength of the Consitutional Council's declaration of Gbagbo as winner, in a reversal of the result announced by the commission, Gbgbo was sworn in as President. Outtara followed suit, thus sparking off a constitutional crisis.

Ping admitted that Mbeki’s appointment had been questioned in several quarters, but also noted that the Peace and Security Council (PSC), an organ of the AU, had praised it.

''I will not hide it; there are people who are questioning our appointment of Mbeki to lead the mediation efforts in Cote d’Ivoire-- that Mbeki was a friend of Gbagbo. But he had the confidence of both Gbagbo and Quattara. He was well-received,'' Ping said.

He said Mbeki's close ties to both sides enabled him to earn their confidence.

''We are facing a crisis in Cote d’Ivoire. The AU is doing its best to safeguard peace and we are ready to save peace,'' Ping told a gathering of the Panel of the Wise, another AU organ, set up three years ago to lead Africa's efforts to prevent conflicts.

The Panel is meeting in the Algerian capital, Algiers, to discuss its three-year strategy of conflict prevention and peace mediation in

Mbeki, who has also arrived in Algiers and is expected to address an International Conference here marking the 50th anniversary of UN declaration on Decolonisation of Africa, left Abidjan recently without a visible breakthrough in his mediation efforts.

Earlier, members of the Panel of the Wise recalled making some progress in the efforts to prevent a further deterioration of the
crisis in Cote d’Ivoire.

''The negotiations on the Electoral Commission were open and all efforts were concentrated there, but nobody paid attention to the
Constitutional Council. The Electoral Commission proved its independence, but everybody has seen what the Council has done,” said
a member of the Panel, from Benin, Elisabeth K. Pognon.

Former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda, a respected international HIV/AIDS activist who has been named as a new member of the expanded Panel of the Wise - which brings together respected African statesmen - said it was urgent to find solutions to conflicts.

''We must find solutions to these problems. We need analysis to the crises in order to find solutions,” he told Panel members and international conflict experts here.

The AU is expected to renew the mandate of some of the members of the panel, while other members are expected to retire after a three-year term; which ends mid-December.
-0- PANA AO/SEG 13Dec2010

13 december 2010 08:05:26

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