Panafrican News Agency

Rawlings preaches "extreme restraint" in Ivorian crisis

Accra, Ghana (PANA) - Ghana’s former president Jerry John Rawlings has called for “extreme restraint” in the management of the political crisis in Cote d’Ivoire triggered by a controversial election claimed by two candidates.

In his second statement in three days released in Accra on Friday he cautioned that the situation in Cote d’Ivoire was not “a simple electoral dispute”.

According to him, it is “a web of ethnic and political complexities” and these should be handled with “tact and diplomacy rather than the open hints of forceful intervention”.

Cote d’Ivoire, the world’s biggest cocoa producer, which went through a bloody civil war in 2002, is in danger of slipping into deeper chaos after incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo and veteran opposition leader Alassane Ouattara have both claimed victory in the 28 November run-off poll.

The Independent Electoral Commission pronounced Ouattara the winner, but this was quickly reversed by the Constitutional Council which pronounced Gbagbo the victor after disqualifying hundreds of thousands of votes for Ouattara from his northern stronghold.

There is a chorus of international condemnation of Gbagbo’s action and the United Nations has led regional and sub-regional bodies to recognize Ouattara and impose sanctions on the West African state.

Heads of state of the Economic of West African States (ECOWAS) say they will send another delegation to convince Gbagbo to leave office quietly or face forcible eviction.

However, Rawlings warned that the disputed results clearly indicate that “Cote d’Ivoire is sharply divided on ethnic lines and that is a matter that should worry major stakeholders such as the ECOWAS, African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN) as they consider options to resolve the impasse”.

“The two men at the centre of the dispute have both indicated their preparedness to see a recount or further verification of the results by neutral observers. Is there any hidden motive in refusing to take up the challenge being offered by the two parties?” he asked.

“It is also important that we do not rush into any form of forceful intervention. That will not guarantee a definite resolution of the crisis and may further exacerbate an already volatile situation that could erupt into a full-scale civil war with horrific consequences.

“Attempts to marshal support for a military intervention lack any justification and rather will expose the UN, ECOWAS and AU as being hypocritical.”

Rawlings said more outrageous election results had taken place without intervention and asked, “How can we justify an intervention in this instance, when the results are so close and divided along ethnic lines?”

He advocated an investigation of all the peaceful options available rather than a military intervention that cannot establish a peaceful political transition in the country.

Rawlings said the situation was definitely embarrassing to Africa. However, equally worrying was the fact that a lot had been left unreported by the international media.
Reports by some of the major election observers condemning the conduct of the elections in several parts of the country have been totally ignored by the international media.”

Rawlings said there were many unanswered crucial questions adding that details of the report of AU envoy, former South African president Thabo Mbeki, should be made public to help unravel the nature of the situation.

He asked ECOWAS to call an emergency meeting to invite both parties in the crisis as well as representatives of all observer missions who covered the elections to state their case.

“We have to tread carefully for the sake of the people of Cote d’Ivoire who are the real victims of this tragedy,” Rawlings said.
-0- PANA MA 25Dec2010