Will Gbagbo's extended mandate bring calm to Cote d'Ivoire?

Addis Ababa- Ethiopia (PANA) -- Where is Cote d'Ivoire headed to after the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union (AU) late Tuesday endorsed a one-year extension of President Laurent Gbagbo's mandate? It may take some time to realise what exactly lies ahead for the country whose political crisis, over the past four years, has tested the skills of many in trying to puzzle it out -- from Linas- Marcoussis in France to the UN Security Council, the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Pretoria in South Africa and several capitals in the West African sub-region.
In endorsing the extension of Gbagbo's mandate the AU wants to give the once prosperous West African nation a chance to prepare for free, fair, open and transparent general elections.
But is it constitutional or a way of reform out of a crisis being put on a test bed in a country that has lost its spirit and form of a popular government? Whether the Ivorians are in favour of the AU move or not, the continental body has no way for measuring the temperature in Abidjan as well as in Bouake, the rebel stronghold in the northern sector of the dichotomised country.
One thing that observers of the situation in Cote d'Ivoire can bet on is the people's desire for democracy that gives them the right to vote for the candidate of one's choice.
Besides its endless urges, mediation and calls for dialogue, the AU still has a weak muscle to check the imprudence of those in control of the affairs of a nation such as Cote d'Ivoire.
Meeting at the heads of state and government level, the PSC agreed that efforts made over the past year to normalise the situation in Cote d'Ivoire did not allow elections to be held on 30 October 2006 as initially planned.
A report presented before the Council by AU Commission Chairperson Alpha Oumar Konare suggests that all Ivorian parties have acknowledged this impossibility, which, literary translates as failure to do what they were supposed to do for themselves.
But is the common man on the Ivorian street able to question what is being done in the name of his cocoa and coffee rich country or simply has to accept reform to get out of a retrogressive era? The AU has no textbook to guide its member States to peace and respect of human rights once one slides into the kind of a bloody mess that the Ivorians have suffered.
All is done by trial and error, hoping that patience would eventually overcome restiveness among the people.
"We have decided on an additional transitional period which should not exceed 12 months starting 1 November 2006," said President Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of Congo and current chair of the AU.
"Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny will remain in office during the transitional period," he added, affirming the recommendation of the extraordinary summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) that met in Abuja, Nigeria, on 6 October 2006 to examine the status of the peace process in Cote d'Ivoire.
In the view of the ECOWAS leaders, the Ivorian peace process at this stage requires the authority over defence and security forces be weighted to the premier's mantle.
According to Nguesso, the PSC concurred with the position of ECOWAS that Bany's executive powers be strengthened so that he could implement the peace roadmap, prepared in accordance with Resolution 1633 adopted by the UN Security Council on 2 October 2005.
Noting that the persistent Ivorian crisis posed a serious threat to regional peace and security, the ECOWAS leaders have reaffirmed that this resolution constitutes an ideal framework for solving the crisis in Cote d'Ivoire.
The regional economic grouping, to which Cote d'Ivoire is a member, also condemns all forms of blockage to implementation of the resolution and has recommended that the UN Security Council take all necessary measures to do away with any obstacle in this regard.
"The PSC has reaffirmed its will to continue to cooperate with the UN Operation in Cote d'Ivoire (ONUCI), the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Cote d'Ivoire and the International Working Group (IWG).
"We believe no stone will be left unturned to ensure peaceful organisation of elections in Cote d'Ivoire in the next 12 months," Nguesso told journalists at the end of the PSC's 64th meeting at the AU headquarters.
He said the Council also paid tribute to South African President Thabo Mbeki for the role he has played as the AU Mediator in Cote d'Ivoire.
Though the PSC invited Gbagbo and Banny to its meeting, it left out the opposition that includes the rebels who wanted to get rid of Gbagbo's regime.
What chance has the Ivorian peace roadmap to pay off if the Forces Nouvelles are not on the bandwagon while the future of the politically fractured Cote d'Ivoire and its constitutional structure still hinge on the principle of birth and fortune? While not expecting angry armed crowds storming businesses and other public places, blocking roads or re-starting bloody skirmishes around the country, it is time the friends of Cote d'Ivoire supported the nation to put in place an effective government that would vigorously work for the interests of all Ivorians.

18 october 2006 12:57:00

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