Thursday, April 7, 2011

Nigeria insists Gbagbo must recognise Ouattara’s election

The Foreign affairs Minister of Nigeria Odein Ajumogobia as urged president of Cote d’Ivoire Gbagbo to recognise his opponent, Alassane Ouattara as the rightful winner of last year’s run-off election.

Reacting to Mr. Gbagbo’s demand to negotiate his surrender talks, as forces loyal to Ouattara hit his presidential palace, the Nigerian foreign affairs Minister, Odein Ajumogobia in a text message said that “it is my view that negotiating terms of surrender without any prior acknowledgement of Ouatarra as the winner of the 28th of November run-off election as the duly elected president of Cote d’Ivoire is counter indicated after so much loss of life and misery caused by Gbagbo’s failure to do just that. That must be a pre-condition.”

Mr Ajumogobia added that “in that event Nigeria and ECOWAS will still be willing to use its goodwill to support his rather belated quest for a dignified exit.”

Ouattara forces attack Gbagbo bunker

Forces loyal to Ivory Coast presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara launched a heavy attack on Wednesday on the bunker where Laurent Gbagbo was defying efforts to force him to cede power, residents said.

“The fighting is terrible here, the explosions are so heavy my building is shaking,” Alfred Kouassi, who lives near Gbagbo’s residence in the commercial capital Abidjan, told Reuters.

“We can hear automatic gunfire and also the thud of heavy weapons. There’s shooting all over the place. Cars are speeding in all directions and so are the fighters,” he said.

He could see French tanks in the street but did not know whether they were taking part in the offensive. The French ambassador’s residence is close to Gbagbo’s.

The French military confirmed that fighting was under way around Gbagbo’s residence, but said that French troops in the city were not involved.

The fighting resumed for a third day after negotiations led by the United Nations and France to secure Gbagbo’s departure failed, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said.

“The negotiations which were carried out for hours yesterday between the entourage of Laurent Gbagbo and Ivorian authorities have failed because of Gbagbo’s intransigence,” Juppe told parliament in Paris.

He had earlier said Gbagbo had “no future” and that it was “absurd” for him to hang on.

The former colonial power in Ivory Coast, France has taken a leading role in talks to persuade Gbagbo to hand over to rival Ouattara and end a four-month standoff over a contested election in November which U.N.-certified results say Ouattara won.

A spokeswoman for Ouattara’s forces said Ouattara’s fighters were storming Gbagbo’s residence, where Gbagbo has been holed up since Ouattara’s forces swept into Abidjan backed by helicopter strikes by the United Nations and France.

“They are in the process of entering the residence to seize Gbagbo,” Affousy Bamba told Reuters. “They have not taken him yet, but they are in the process.”

Civilians hunt for food, water

Residents however said militias close to Gbagbo and his presidential guard were putting up a stiff resistance, even as most soldiers from the regular army had heeded a call to lay down their arms.

Despite the fighting, desperate civilians in the north of the city ventured outside to hunt for water and food.

“We haven’t slept, we haven’t eaten, we’ve had nothing to drink. We are all going to die,” said 17-year-old Mariam.

Gbagbo has ruled Ivory Coast since 2000. Negotiations to persuade him to quit stalled after he resisted international pressure to sign a document renouncing his claim to power.

“If Gbagbo has refused to sign the documents they (UN and France) presented to him yesterday, it is because they proposed something that had no legal and judicial basis,” Gbagbo’s spokesman Ahoua Don Mello told Reuters on Wednesday.

A defiant Gbagbo had earlier denied reports he was ready to surrender after a fierce assault by forces loyal to Ouattara, whose victory in November’s presidential election Gbagbo has refused to accept.

“We are not at the negotiating stage. And my departure from where? To go where?” Gbagbo told French radio RFI on Wednesday.

“For peace to return to Ivory Coast, I and Ouattara, the two of us have to talk,” he added.

Ouattara’s forces were ordered not to kill Gbagbo.

“Alassane Ouattara has given formal instructions that Gbagbo is to be kept alive because we want to bring him to justice,” Ouattara spokesman Patrick Achi told Reuters.

Gbagbo had told French television channel LCI his army had only called for a ceasefire after its weaponry was destroyed by French and U.N. air strikes on Monday. He had suggested direct talks with Ouattara, an offer that was not accepted.

“I’m not a kamikaze. I love life. My voice is not the voice of a martyr, no, no, no, I’m not looking for death. It’s not my aim to die,” Gbagbo, told the channel by telephone.

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