Raila reveals how Gbagbo wasted prospects

April 12, 2011 12:00 am

, NEW YORK, Apr 12 – Prime Minister Raila Odinga has now revealed how he had offered Ivorian leader Laurent Gbagbo immunity during the time he negotiated a truce earlier this year.

Speaking hours after the strongman was captured in Abidjan, Mr Odinga told the New York Times that he promised Mr Gbagbo immunity if he vacated office and accepted to flee to the United States of America.

The offer was made when Mr Odinga served as the African Union mediator in the West African country.

"I gave Mr Gbagbo a number of options that I had negotiated with the international community, including the US and EU on his behalf.   I told him he could surrender and remain in the country where he would remain active politically if he chose to, without being taken to court."

"I also offered him to go into exile and be a lecture in Boston University. America had given me that offer. All that is lost now," the PM said.

Mr Odinga recalled that during the negotiations, Mr Gbagbo appeared to indicate that he would surrender power if his rival Alassane Ouattara agreed to include 25 percent of his people into the new government.

"When I floated this to Ouattara, he told me he was ready to take up to 30 percent of Gbagbo\’s people. But Mr Gbagbo was not keen on keeping his word."

The PM regretted that Mr Gbagbo rejected "so many lucrative offers" only to end up under arrest.

Mr Odinga has urged Mr Ouattara to embark immediately on reconciling and uniting his country following the defeat of Mr Gbagbo whose reign Mr Odinga said "came to an expected end."

He also called on the people of Ivory Coast to denounce any further acts of war and destruction and instead focus on reconstructing the country.

Mr Odinga asked the President-elect to bring supporters of Mr Gbagbo into the Government for the sake of uniting and reconstructing the country.

The Kenyan premier had been nominated by the African Union as its mediator in the Ivory Coast crisis, but his efforts hit a dead end when he was rejected by Mr Gbagbo\’s camp.

Mr Odinga said he was not surprised that Gbagbo\’s hold on to power ended as it did, with a violent overthrow and loss of lives.

"I saw it coming.  Gbagbo was digging for a war I knew he could not win and I told him as much. His troops had been very demoralized.

"When his representative was removed from the regional bank, I knew Gbagbo was not going to pay the soldiers even the little salaries he had been paying them.  Things got worse for him when Cocoa importers cut their business with the country by up to 40 percent," Mr Odinga said.

Mr Odinga fell short of declaring that African presidents misled Mr Gbagbo into a false sense of security, but said he had a feeling a number of African leaders did not tell the deposed former president the truth.

Pointing out there is "a big difference" between Mr Gbagbo and Mr Ouattara, Mr Odinga said he was confident that the President-elect has "what it takes to unite and rebuild Ivory Coast."

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