24 January 2011
South African President Jacob Zuma has pinned his hopes on this week’s African Union meeting in Ethiopia to defuse the unfolding political crisis in Cote d’Ivoire.
Political rivals Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara have been at loggerheads since a disputed second-round presidential election in Cote d’Ivoire in November last year, bringing that country to a political standstill.
Both the United Nations (UN) and the African Union (AU) have since come out in support of Outtara, who is widely believed to have won the poll. Gbagbo is still clinging to power, however, and maintains control of the country’s army, a number of its state bodies and much of its cocoa sector.
According to the UN, the post-election stalemate has so far left around 247 people dead and forced thousands to flee their homes.
‘Political solution similar to Sudan’s’
Speaking to journalists in Pretoria on Friday, Zuma said he was hoping a solution would be found soon, and called on the AU to discuss the matter with both leaders.
“We are hoping that the AU will be able to resolve the matter and convince the parties … Our view is that we need to do something to help the situation, and don’t demand that one leader should go,” Zuma said.
He was speaking following a meeting with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who was on a two-day state visit to South Africa.
Both Zuma and Museveni agreed that a political solution similar to that of South Sudan was needed to bring about political stability in Cote d’Ivoire.
Pretoria would further support any recommendation of the AU to prevent any outbreak of violence in resolving the standoff between Gbagbo and Ouattara, Zuma said.
Pressure on Gbagbo mounts
The United States, meanwhile, says is working with its African partners to impose sanctions against Gbagbo and his supporters, along with a broadened a travel ban, in the latest bid to pressure him to step down.
“At this point, there are travel restrictions and financial restrictions on Gbagbo and his immediate circle of friends and family and those people who allow him to remain in power,” US Assistant Secretary for Africa Bruce Wharton said in Pretoria on Thursday.
He was addressing the media on US government policy in Africa and the year ahead.
The US has joined other countries and blocs, such as the European Union, which have frozen Gbagbo’s assets.
Wharton said the US would continue to increase these pressures, making it more difficult for Gbagbo to remain where he was.
“It’s my hope that eventually he will see that the future of Cote d’Ivoire and the people that he claims to serve is best served by his departure,” Wharton said. “And if that can be done peacefully, then Cote d’Ivoire can move on.”