, ADDIS ABABA, Dec 27 – The African Union has asked Kenya\’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga to lead its efforts in resolving the political crisis in Ivory Coast, a statement said on Monday.
The AU Commission chief Jean Ping said he had asked Odinga to "lead the monitoring of the situation in Ivory Coast and bolster the efforts being undertaken" to end the turmoil.
Odinga, who was named Kenya\’s prime minister in 2008 in a coalition government set up to end weeks of political unrest, recently called for the forceful removal of Ivory Coast\’s Laurent Gbagbo, who is tussling with rival Alassane Ouattara over the country\’s leaderhip.
Gbagbo and Ouattara have both declared themselves president following November\’s election run-off.
The west African state\’s electoral body had announced that Ouattara had beaten the incumbent but Gbagbo rejected the results and had himself sworn in, despite broad international support for his opponent.
Ping also voiced support for the West African bloc ECOWAS\’ decision to send the presidents of Benin, Sierra Leone and Cape Verde to Abidjan to ask Gbagbo to quit.
Gbagbo has come under increasing international pressure to relinquish power, but has yet to give in. The 53-member AU suspended Ivory Coast on December 6 because of his refusal to stand down.
Political parties loyal to Ivory Coast presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara have called a general strike across the country to force the incumbent president to cede power.
President Gbagbo refused to step aside following last month’s disputed election which he insists was rigged.
Mr Ouattara has been recognised internationally as the victor.
Regional West African grouping Ecowas has warned that it may use "legitimate force" to remove Mr Gbagbo.
He accused the US and France of leading a plot against him.
The United Nations, the European Union, the US, the African Union and West African regional bloc Ecowas all say that Mr Ouattara won the 28 November vote.
The call for a general strike echoes a similar call last week by the man who would be Mr Ouattara\’s prime minister.
Although the situation has felt less tense since the lifting of an overnight curfew, there\’s concern that things will worsen in the coming month.
A delegation of heads of state from Ecowas from Benin, Sierra Leone and Cape Verde – is planning to travel to the country on Tuesday to convince Mr Gbagbo to step aside.
Mr Gbagbo\’s Interior Minister Emile Guirieoulou told a news conference that his government would: "welcome the three heads of states as brothers and friends, and listen to the message they have to convey".