, LAGOS, Jan 24 – Nigeria\’s foreign minister on Monday called on the UN Security Council to authorise force in Ivory Coast as West African nations seek to further pressure strongman Laurent Gbagbo to quit power.
Odein Ajumogobia, in an editorial in Nigerian newspapers, said the deadly crisis "single handedly precipitated by Mr. Laurent Gbagbo… will inevitably lead to anarchy and chaos, or worse, a full-blown civil war" if not resolved.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan is the current chairman of West African bloc ECOWAS, which has threatened to use force if Gbagbo does not step down in favour of his internationally recognised rival Alassane Ouattara.
"… The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) requires unequivocal international support through an appropriate United Nations Security Council resolution to sanction the use of force," Ajumogobia wrote.
"This is the only way to legitimise the use of external force to effectively contain the increasingly volatile internal situation and ensure an enduring peace in Cote d’Ivoire and the West African sub-region."
The resolution should endorse the use of force "as a last option," he said.
"Gbagbo must be made to understand that there is a very real prospect of overwhelming military capability bearing down on him and his cohorts," the foreign minister wrote.
"It is only then that he will give serious consideration to the demands that he step down immediately."
Ajumogobia said the use of "legitimate force" did not have to mean an invasion and could include a naval blockade to enforce sanctions.
The UN has some 9,500 peacekeeping troops in Ivory Coast, and the Security Council last week ordered 2,000 additional soldiers for the mission known as UNOCI.
But Ajumogobia said "the peacekeeping mandate of the UNOCI has now however become inadequate to guarantee peace and security in the country."
"It is time to look at the prospect of applying legitimate force …," he wrote.
Asked whether he was suggesting the UN change the mandate of its peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast to allow it to participate in the removal of Gbagbo, Ajumogobia said an ECOWAS military deployment should have the United Nations\’ stamp of approval.
"My argument simply put is that the use of force by ECOWAS in Cote d\’Ivoire must be under the aegis of the United Nations, and that without an appropriate UN Security Council resolution to sanction such use of force, ECOWAS use of force in Cote d\’Ivoire would not be legitimate," he told AFP.
Gbagbo has defied global calls for him to quit power in favour of Ouattara, the internationally recognised winner of November elections.
ECOWAS faces difficulties in mustering troops for a military operation. Nigeria, which would likely be the main contributor to a regional force, holds elections in April amid unrest in several parts of the country.
Ghana, which neighbours Ivory Coast and is also an ECOWAS member, opposes the use of force.