Raila vows Ivory Coast mediation continues

January 21, 2011 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya Jan 21- Prime Minister Raila Odinga has arrived back in country and says he will push on with his mandate as the African Union mediator in the Ivory Coast crisis, despite rejection by strongman Laurent Gbagbo.

He told a news conference at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport that he would present a raft of recommendations to the AU Summit on how to end the two month-long crisis.

"That\’s what you call grand standing in negotiations, I don\’t take them seriously. I am going to make my recommendations to those who appointed me to this mission, and action will be taken," said the mediator.

Mr Odinga confirmed that the African Union and Economic Community of West African States supported a peaceful solution and further dismissed his rejection by Mr Gbagbo’s side as a mere act of grandstanding which will not deter his efforts.

"I know that Africa will not give up but will move on and find a lasting solution," he said.

He explained that he had a \’fixed mandate\’ going into the talks. He told journalists and other dignitaries that his mandate was to persuade Mr Gbagbo to step down since the AU recongnised his opponent Alassane Ouattara as the legitimately elected President.

"They are saying that I am biased but I am executing the position of the AU.  If I am not welcome, somebody else will take over and he will not convey a different message," he said.

Mr Odinga appealed for a cessation of hostilities from both Mr Gbagbo and Mr Ouattara – the internationally recognised winner of the disputed poll – saying that was the only way to break the deadlock.

He repeated that time was quickly running out for Mr Gbagbo saying that citizens were growing tired of the impasse that has engulfed their nation and denied them their economic potential. 

Mr Odinga urged African leaders to embrace democracy saying that the writing is on the wall for dictators citing the recent events in Tunisia where President Ben Ali was forced to flee his country after a national strike.

"The time is up for dictatorship… leadership must get its base from the people, it must be the leadership of the people, by the people, for people, that is what democracy is all about," he said.

The PM pointed out there were a record 17 presidential elections being held on African soil this year, and if the continent\’s people came to believe that their votes were not what brought to powers the leaders they wanted, elections would become meaningless and pave the way for unrest and instability.

"The continent must continue to speak with one voice if a greater crisis is to be averted," he said.

Former DRC Foreign Minister Bizima Karaha who was with the PM said there seemed to be a break down in the command chain of the military, citing refusal by the chief of staff to remove the blockade near Mr Ouattara’s hotel despite instructions from Mr Gbagbo.

"Our worry was, who was in charge of the military command chain?" he posed. "Because it became clear that the commander in control is not respected, or the orders are not respected, or it\’s a combination of the two."

He said the mediation team is also questioning the commitment of either side to the talks.

"There is a possibility that people simply don\’t want to negotiate and that is the reason why they were doing all that," he said.

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