Ivorian crisis: Odinga insists Gbagbo must step down

Nairobi, Kenya (PANA) - Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga insists Ivorian strongman, Laurent Gbagbo, has no option but to negotiate an exit to pave the way for the legitimate president of the country, Alassane Ouattara, to take over.

Odinga, who returned to Kenya from the West African country Wednesday said Ouattara had pledged to accord his rival "a dignified exit once he concedes defeat".

"Alassane Ouattara has stated his willingness to ensure a dignified exit for Gbagbo provided the latter accepted the outcome of the presidential elections as declared by the independent electoral commission and as certified by the UN representative," he said.

He asserted that Ouattara was the duly elected president of the West African nation.

Odinga was part of the African Union (AU) delegation, dispatched by the continental body to Cote d'Ivoire to break the political stalemate.

Other members of the team were presidents Ernest Koroma (Sierra Leone), Pedro Pires (Cape Verde) and Boni Yayi of Benin.

"Mr. Ouattara is the legitimate and recognized president of Cote d'Ivoire in accordance with the will of the Ivorian electorate as freely expressed in the run-off elections," he said, stressing "accordingly, the mission re-emphasised the call to Gbagbo to peacefully hand over power to Ouattara without any further delay.

"We have had this transition for far too long where the incumbents lose elections and refuse to accept the verdict of the people and then eventually negotiate a power-sharing arrangement. We don't want this to become the norm on the African continent," Odinga said.

However, in the event that Gbagbo fails to cede power, Odinga stated that the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had not ruled out the use of military force but as a final measure.

"The use of force is a last resort because as you know, this will bring about a lot of deaths and these are things which we want to avoid," he said, adding "this is one important reason we should proceed fast with the talks so as to bring the issue to a close."

However, some doubt the region's willingness to carry out this threat, given the unpredictable response of the Ivorian army, which publicly continues to support Gbagbo.

Odinga said he was instrumental in convincing Gbagbo to lift a blockade around the temporary headquarters of Ouattara in Abidjan.

"Mr, Gbagbo agreed to negotiate a peaceful end to the crisis without any conditions. He also pledged to immediately lift the blockade around Hotel du Golf, which was the temporary headquarters of the president-elect," the premier stated, noting that "Mr. Gbagbo has kept his word and yesterday by mid-day, he did lift the blockade."

Ouattara's camp has, however, dismissed as false, assertions that their leader was willing to hold a face-to-face meeting with Gbagbo in a bid to resolve the political crisis in the country.
-0- PANA DJ/BOS 5Jan2010

05 january 2011 18:57:53

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