10 March 2011
A panel of five presidents, including South African President Jacob Zuma, reported to the African Union on the worsening crisis in Cote d’Ivoire on Wednesday after failing to persuade Laurent Gbagbo to cede power to Alassane Ouattara, who is recognized by the international community as the president-elect.
The African Union (AU) High-Level Panel for the Resolution of the Crisis in the Ivory Coast reported to the AU Peace and Security Council in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Wednesday.
The five-president panel mandated by the AU to tackle the crisis in Cote d’Ivoire includes Zuma, Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, Chadian leader Idriss Deby, Tanzania’s Jakaya Kikwete and Burkina Faso’s Blaise Compaore.
The panel is expected to continue talks in the coming days, without the participation of Gbagbo, who has rejected its mediation.
The crisis that began following the 28 November presidential election has fast developed from a political to a military, social and economic issue.
While Ouattara is calling for the suspension of cocoa exports to cut off financial support for Gbagbo’s government, the latter has ordered control of cocoa purchases and exports, threatening to seize stocks if an exporter fails to resume business by the end of March.
The military confrontation between Gbagbo’s forces and Ouattara’s New Forces (FN) is escalating, with latest reports of three towns lost to the FN moving south in its offensives. Fighting is also reported near the border with Liberia.
The country is facing an all-out civil war unless a breakthrough is made in the near future, analysts warn.
At the same time, a humanitarian catastrophe is looming with tens of thousands of people displaced in the post-election violence, including 20 000 in the economic capital Abidjan alone.
Many have fled into neighboring Liberia and Guinea, spreading the crisis elsewhere in the region. The United Nations puts the death toll from the crisis at nearly 400.
Cote d’Ivoire has suffered much instability in recent years, including the 2002-03 civil war, and has now been divided in two, with the FN controlling the north and Gbagbo’s government holding the south.