South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma said the Economic Community of West African States should take the lead in resolving Ivory Coast’s post-election crisis, while indicating a more conciliatory approach to incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo.Ivory Coast’s Nov. 28 presidential vote was meant to boost economic growth and investment in the world’s biggest cocoa producer by unifying the West African nation, which was divided by a civil war in 2002 into a government-controlled south and rebel-held north. Instead, the country is in a state of deadlock, with Alassane Ouattara, 69, recognized internationally as the victor, and Gbagbo, 65, refusing to cede power.“We recognize and respect that Ivory Coast belongs to Ecowas and so it is more the responsibility of Ecowas” to decide what to do, Zuma told reporters in Pretoria today, following talks with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. “We need to do something else to help the situation, rather than demand that one of the two leaders go away.”
Ecowas said last month that it may use force to oust Gbagbo if he declined to leave office. The group’s 15 members include Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal and Ivory Coast.Raila Odinga, Kenya’s prime minister, who was tasked by the African Union to mediate in Ivory Coast, visited South Africa yesterday to brief Zuma on the situation.“We believe that we need to find a way to look at the facts and verify them and on the basis of that information move forward,” Zuma said. “We believe there are also some discrepancies in how some of the institutions worked.”
While the Electoral Commission gave victory to Ouattara, the Constitutional Council said Gbagbo was the winner, citing voting irregularities in the north of the country.