African Union mediator in Ivory Coast Sunday

January 14, 2011 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Jan 14 – The African Union\’s mediator in the Ivorian crisis, Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, is expected to fly back to the troubled west African country on Sunday, his spokesman said Friday.

"The PM is scheduled to travel on Sunday to Ivory Coast," spokesman Dennis Onyango told AFP.

His fresh mission to Ivory Coast comes after a meeting held in Nairobi on Wednesday with the chairman of the AU commission, Jean Ping, on the results of his first mediation effort earlier this month.

Odinga\’s first trip to Abidjan since being appointed as mediator by the continental body ended on January 5 with little tangible progress in resolving a standoff that has brought Ivory Coast back to the brink of civil war.

The Kenyan prime minister said he had clinched a deal whereby the November 28 Ivorian presidential election rivals, incumbent Laurent Gbagbo and opposition leader Alassane Ouattara, would meet.

He also said Gbagbo had agreed to lift the blockade on the hotel used as headquarters by Ouattara but neither claim materialised.

Both men have declared themselves the winner of the election, which was meant to bring an end to a protracted political crisis in the country.

Ouattara was declared the winner by the electoral body but Gbagbo challenged the results and has since dug in his heels in the face of virulent international criticism and mounting military pressure to vacate his seat.

Odinga also said during his first mission last week that Gbagbo would not face prosecution if he agreed to recognise Ouattara as the country\’s legitimate president and step down gracefully.

He had ruled out any compromise short of Gbagbo\’s exit, including a coalition government such as the one that handed him his own job as premier following Kenya\’s post-election crisis three years ago.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regional bloc has said it could use force to oust Gbagbo if he refuses to step down, but Odinga stressed in his meeting with the AU\’s top executive it should be a last resort.

The UN announced on Thursday that 247 people had died in Ivory Coast since mid-December.


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