|February 1, 2011
AU summit highlights divisions over Cote d'Ivoire
African leaders have set a one-month deadline to solve Cote d'Ivoire's presidential crisis which was decided at the end of a two-day African Union summit in Addis Ababa. But the AU summit has highlighted "deep divisions". While the west African bloc ECOWAS, favours the use of force to oust Laurent Gbagbo, South Africa, a member of the panel, does not support the call for Gbagbo to go.
Cote d'Ivoire has been locked in a power struggle since disputed presidential polls in November, between the former president Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara, who has been internationally recognised as the winner. The panel must now try to find room for negotiations, as the head of UN peacekeeping Alain Le Roy ruled out any power-sharing deal between Gbagbo and Ouattara.
At the summit, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, Equatorial Guinea's President, was named new African Union Chairman and will be dealing with Côte d'Ivoire. The UN Secretary-General Ban ki Moon underlined the importance of a "peaceful and honorable exit" for Gbagbo and urged "President Ouattara to form a national unity government." Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz will head the panel, which also includes the Presidents of Burkina Faso, Chad, South Africa and Tanzania.
The high-level panel faces an uphill battle, as it has limited options to offer the two rival leaders. AU chief Jean Ping has already made it clear the panel will help Alassane Ouattara exercise power through a negotiated political deal. Ping says the AU reconfirmed Ouattara as the recognised leader. "Our statement is clear. It says that we recognize Alassane Ouattara as president of last November's election. we never said we wanted the votes to be recounted -- our position is clear," said Ping. "Some people say there should be a recount. Fine, that's their opinion. But we will stand by our decision,“ he added.