, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 5 – Prime Minister Raila Odinga insists that Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo has no option but to negotiate an exit, to pave way for the legitimate President of the country Alassane Ouattara to take over.
Mr Odinga who returned to Kenya from West Africa on Tuesday said that Mr Ouattara had pledged to accord his rival "a dignified exit once he concedes defeat."
"Mr Alassane Ouattara has stated his willingness to ensure a dignified exit for Mr Gbagbo provided the latter accepted the outcome of the presidential elections as declared by the independent electoral commission and as certified by the UN representative," he said.
He maintained that Mr Ouattara was the duly elected president of the West African nation.
"Mr Alassane Ouattara is the legitimate and recognised president of Ivory Coast in accordance with the will of the Ivorian electorate as freely expressed in the run-off elections," he said. "Accordingly, the mission re-emphasised the call to Mr Gbagbo to peacefully hand over power to Mr Ouattara without any further delay."
"We have had this transition for far too long where the incumbents lose elections and refuse to accept the verdict of the people and then eventually negotiate a power-sharing arrangement. We don\’t want this to become the norm on the African continent," Mr Odinga said.
But in the event Mr Gbagbo failed to cede power, Mr Odinga stated that the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had not ruled out the use of military force but as a final measure.
"The use of force is a last resort because as you know this will bring about a lot of deaths and these are things which we want to avoid," he said. "This is one important reason that we should proceed fast with the talks so as to bring the issue to a close."
However, some doubt the region\’s willingness to carry out this threat given the unpredictable response of the Ivorian army, which publicly continues to support Mr Gbagbo.
Mr Odinga said he was instrumental in convincing Mr Gbagbo to lift a blockade around the temporary headquarters of Mr Ouattara in Abidjan.
"Mr Laurent Gbagbo agreed to negotiate a peaceful end to the crisis without any conditions. He also pledged to immediately lift the blockade around Hotel du Golf, which was the temporary headquarters of the President-elect," the premier stated. "Mr Gbagbo has kept his word and yesterday by mid-day he did lift the blockade."
Mr Ouattara\’s camp has however dismissed as false, assertions that their leader was willing to hold a face-to-face meeting with Mr Gbagbo in a bid to resolve the political crisis in the country.