ABIDJAN: The African Union’s mediator for Ivory Coast said Wednesday his two-day visit failed to break the political impasse in the troubled West African nation because the incumbent leader broke his promises.
Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga concluded meetings Wednesday with incumbent Laurent Gbagbo and his opponent, who the international community says won November’s presidential runoff.
Alassane Ouattara has been unable to assume the presidency because Gbagbo refuses to leave office despite sanctions, multiple visits by African leaders and now the threat of a military ouster.
"I regret to announce that the breakthrough that was needed did not materialize," Odinga said in a statement issued Wednesday morning.
Odinga said Gbagbo broke several promises he had made to lift a blockade put in place around the Abidjan hotel where Ouattara is confined.
"Mr. Gbagbo gave me an assurance that this blockade would be lifted yesterday, but he broke that promise — for the second time in two weeks," Odinga said.
In his meetings with Ouattara, he said, the former economist agreed to give Gbagbo’s allies a certain number of ministry positions in a new government.
Odinga also urged Ouattara to provide for Gbagbo’s safe exit from office.
Ouattara "should provide Mr. Gbagbo ironclad assurances about his freedom to choose with dignity and security his future option, including the option of continuing in politics in (Ivory Coast) or to settle in a country of his choice," Odinga said.
Pro-Gbagbo forces have been accused of targeting Ouattara’s supporters in the commercial hub of Abidjan, and supporters of both candidates have taken to the streets in protest.
A West African bloc has threatened military intervention if Gbagbo does not step down.
"Time is running out for an amicably negotiated settlement," Odinga said.
"In addition, the window of any opportunity for any amnesty will continue to close if Mr. Gbagbo’s supporters continue to commit crimes against civilians and peacekeepers."
The United Nations has reported more than 200 deaths in post-election violence.
Once a prosperous state, Ivory Coast has become a nation perpetually in crisis following the disputed 2000 election that brought Gbagbo to power.
The country was plunged into civil war in 2002, and a presidential election initially scheduled for 2005 has been delayed every year since.
When the runoff vote finally went ahead Nov. 28, it was expected to heal the nation. In a televised debate on the eve of the vote, Gbagbo vowed to respect the results issued by the country’s independent electoral commission. He changed his mind several days later when the commission announced that he had lost, and the U.N. certified Ouattara’s victory.
Odinga ran as the opposition candidate in Kenya’s disputed 2007 presidential vote, the result of which led to violence that left more than 1,000 people dead. He was later appointed prime minister as part of a power-sharing deal. On Wednesday, he said Ivory Coast could set a dangerous precedent for Africa.
"If the continent’s people came to believe that their votes were not what brought to power the leaders they wanted, elections would become meaningless and pave the way for unrest and instability throughout the continent," he said.