Ivory Coast’s rival presidents are working to secure international support for their competing governments ahead of this weekend’s African Union summit in Ethiopia.
A power struggle that has played out on the streets of Abidjan, the halls of the regional central bank, and the international cocoa market now moves to the African Union summit where Ivory Coast’s incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo and the United-Nations-certified winner of November’s vote, former prime minister Alassane Ouattara, are both hoping for decisive action against their rival.
Mr. Ouattara’s prime minister Guillaume Soro has been traveling the continent to shore up support for a Ouattara government that remains confined to an Abidjan resort hotel. In Zambia, Soro said African allies of democracy may need to remove Mr. Gbagbo by force.
“Our fore fathers did it while fighting for independence, our elders did the same way fighting for multiparty, today we have to fight for democracy,” he said.
Soro said it is time African Union leaders make clear to Mr. Gbagbo that he must go.
“Cote d’Ivoire government is asking the African Union to take strong decision against Mr. Laurent Gbagbo and his clan who is refusing to hand over power peacefully,” he said.
Mr. Gbagbo’s government dismisses the threat of regional military intervention as a bluff and says West African leaders will fail in their efforts to deny Mr. Gbagbo access to state funds by changing the head of the regional central bank.
Gbagbo government spokesman Ahoua Don Mello says the regional economy is far too dependent on Ivory Coast to function without it.
Don Mello says the West African central bank and the West African monetary union cannot survive without Ivory Coast. And he says everyone knows that.
The economic battle between these rival governments has also extended to cocoa exports with Mr. Ouattara calling for a month-long ban and Mr. Gbagbo’s government saying it is business as usual in the world’s largest cocoa producer.
The African Union initially joined the United Nations, the European Union, and the United States in demanding that Mr. Gbagbo leave power because Mr. Ouattara is the rightful winner of Ivory Coast’s election.
But the African Union opens its summit with that unanimity diminished as South Africa, Uganda, and Angola now say there must be a negotiated settlement that takes into account Mr. Gbagbo’s concerns about the fairness of the vote. Mr. Gbagbo’s claim to re-election is based on the constitutional counsel annulling Ouattara votes that it said were fraudulent.