By WALTER MENYA, email@example.comPosted Tuesday, December 28 2010 at 16:36
Prime Minister Raila Odinga has promised embattled Cote d’Ivoire President Laurent Gbagbo protection if he agrees to step down.
The Premier, who was appointed by the African Union to lead its efforts to resolve the stalemate in the West African nation, made the offer after he accepted the role Monday.
He will only take up the AU assignment if the Ecowas delegation of heads of state from Benin, Sierra Leone and Cape Verde who travelled to Abidjan Tuesday failed.
Mr Gbagbo refused to concede defeat and vacate office for his rival Alassane Ouattara.
Mr Ouattara was declared as the winner of the November 28 runoff polls by the country’s Election Commission but the Constitutional Council, a body headed by a Gbagbo ally overturned the results in the latter's favour.
Both men have declared themselves president of Cote d’Ivoire.
Mr Odinga’s offer is similar to another extended to Mr Gbagbo by African states of a “soft landing” in exile if he agrees to step down but which he turned down.
Mr Odinga said both Mr Gbagbo and his rival Alassane Ouattara were his friends. He also sought to assure the international community of his neutrality to avert further loss of lives after the country relapsed into near civil war when Gbagbo declined to relinquish power.
“This kind of tussle does not augur well with the African democracy but I commit myself to remain positive and assure Gbagbo that he will be protected so that we stop any more bloodshed” he said at a press conference at his rural home in Bondo.
The PM said the Ivorian situation presented a unique challenge especially due to the fact that a court order over ruled the will of the popular vote after Ouattara was declared winner by the electoral body.
After accepting the new role bestowed on him, he told the media that his input in the post election standoff could come handy if Ecowas failed to broker peace.
“Prime Minister Raila Odinga last night accepted the African Union appointment to broker peace in Ivory Coast on condition that the ECOWAS led mediation team failed to restore order in the troubled West African states,” a statement sent through the PM’s Press Service said.
According to Mr Odinga, the ruling of the Constitutional Council to overturn electoral Commission’s declaration of Mr Ouattara as president raised credibility issues.
The Premier’s confirmation to take up the job comes after the chairman of the AU commission Jean Ping requested Mr Odinga to keep track of the happenings in the turmoil plagued west African state after the two presidential candidates were sworn in.
Mr Gbagbo has come under increasing international pressure to relinquish power, but has yet to give in. The 53-member AU suspended Cote d’Ivoire on December 6 because of his refusal to stand down.
Some 14,000 people have already fled to neighbouring Liberia following November’s disputed election results, and the UN says it is prepared for a total of 30,000 refugees in the region.
In addition, the UN has said at least 173 people have died in violence already.
Mr Gbagbo has demanded that UN and French troops leave the country and a close ally has even warned that they could be treated as rebels if they did not obey the instruction in the wake of their support for Mr Ouattara.
The UN, which has 10,000 peacekeepers in the country, rejected the call.
The US, the UN, African states and others have recognised Mr Ouattara as the victor of the November 28 polls, but Mr Gbagbo has rejected the results, saying they were rigged by rebels who still hold the north after the civil war.