UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
COTE D IVOIRE: West African leaders try to revive flagging peace efforts
ABUJA, 30 Sep 2005 (IRIN) - West African leaders gathered for a one-day extraordinary summit on Friday aimed at reviving flagging efforts to bring peace to divided Cote d’Ivoire although the country’s president refused to attend.
Ivorian leader Laurent Gbagbo boycotted the talks after accusing the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) of bias towards the rebels, who seized control of the northern half of the cocoa-rich nation three years ago.
Friday’s talks are to be followed by a wider African Union (AU) summit on 6 October, with the United Nations Security Council due to consider the crisis in Cote d’Ivoire a week later on 13 October.
"Our job is to analyse failings of a process that looked promising at first, to find remedies so as to make progress towards peace and reconciliation," ECOWAS chairman, and Niger President, Mamadou Tandja told reporters ahead of the closed-door meeting.
On the eve of the talks, the UN envoy to the once prosperous and peaceful Cote d'Ivoire warned that the country once again stood teetering on the brink of war.
“We are far off from national reconciliation and this dangerous atmosphere explains why ECOWAS, the AU and the UN are becoming involved,” Pierre Schori told reporters in Abidjan, the de facto capital, before heading to the Nigerian capital for the summit.
Schori said tension was rising ahead of 30 October, the date when Gbagbo's current mandate was supposed to end with fresh elections.
The latest peace deal, known as the Pretoria Accord and brokered by AU mediator and South African President Thabo Mbeki, was supposed to climax with a new round of elections to seal peace.
But like earlier accords the deal crumbled and everyone -- from Gbagbo, to the rebels, the UN -- has acknowledged that the ballot cannot be held. Rebels in the north have refused to disarm, pro-Gbagbo militia in the south have failed to hand in weapons, electoral registers have not been updated and the country is still divided.
Gbagbo meanwhile has said he has the constitutional right to remain in office until a new election is held, while the opposition and the rebels insist that he must stand down and allow a transitional authority to take his place.
At the Abuja talks, attended by nine West African leaders, Gbagbo’s delegates circulated documents stating that he had respected pledges made under the Pretoria Accord though the rebels had not.
“I was the sole signatory of the accords to have held to my commitments,” the president told the Ivorian nation in a speech broadcast on state radio and television this week.
He announced he would boycott the ECOWAS summit on the grounds that some countries backed the insurgents.
“Cote d’Ivoire will never agree to allow these countries to decide its fate while they are both judges and players,” he said.
Meanwhile the rebels have rebuffed further mediation efforts by Mbeki and said they will have no further dealings with him.
In this stalemate, analysts say ECOWAS, the AU and the UN will have few options other than proposing new election deadlines and hardening the threat of sanctions against individuals holding up the accord.
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