Saturday, January 29, 2011

Ivory Coast Leader Gbagbo's Party Slams Odinga' Role in Conflict

Gbagbo’s party slams Odinga

Saturday, 29 January 2011 00:09
From Robert Mukondiwa in ABIDJAN, Cote d’Ivoire

Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo’s party has spoken for the first time on the reasons behind its decision to reject the presence of Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga as mediator to break the electoral impasse here.

While President Gbagbo himself has remained mum ahead of the African Union Summit taking place in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa,

FPI party president Pascal Affi N’Guessan has said Odinga came to Abidjan with “preconceived opinions”, jeopardising his task of being a non-partisan mediator.

“Mr Odinga was not up to the task. That is why we decided to reject him as a mediator.

“A mediator is supposed to be a good listener but he came here with preconceived opinions,” said N’Guessan in an interview yesterday.

“At the end of the mission he made biased statements based on his own sentiments and we found that worrying.”

N’Guessan said while Odinga was a na├»ve choice by the African Union given his own almost carbon copy experiences in Kenya — where he opposed Mwai Kibaki’s legitimacy as president after elections — Cote d’Ivoire had not prejudged him on his past and had hoped he would look at the facts and not draw from emotions.

“The choice of Odinga as mediator was not by us, but by the African Union and we accepted him because he is the Prime Minister of a respected African nation.

“We found it appropriate not to have preconceived opinions about him.

We wanted to judge him on his work on the ground and not on his past personal battles.

“With this background it was up to Odinga to show he was equal to the task, but sadly he failed to do so,” said N’Guessan.

The FPI leader, however, said former South African President Thabo Mbeki had “maturely and correctly” read the situation on the ground, producing a “spot on” report on what had fomented tensions.

“Mr Mbeki’s report on the crisis was swept under the carpet and not produced to the rest of the world. That is because it was not favourable to the West, led by France, who wanted to paint a picture that President Gbagbo had lost the election.

“Mr Mbeki’s report shows that the constitution was disregarded in the declaration of Ouattara as the winner in the elections,” explained N’Guessan.

The Independent Electoral Commission only had the mandate to proclaim a winner three days after the election after which only the Constitutional Council held that mandate.

However, the head of the Electoral Commission went ahead and declared Ouattara the winner four days after the close of balloting.

Further, he did so alone instead of in the presence of the entire team of commissioners.

Over and above that, the results were supposed to be presented to the nation at the commission’s headquarters but were instead delivered at the Golf Hotel in Abidjan.

Interestingly, this is the same location that Ouattara used as his campaign headquarters and he has been there since he was oddly declared winner of the polls.

Ivorian leaders believe their current battle stems from an attempt by former colonial power France to keep a neo-colonialist grip on their country in the wake of reports that Cote d’Ivoire may have abundant oil reserves.

This is in addition to being the world’s largest exporter and West Africa’s biggest economy.

France and its Western allies have imposed a raft of sanctions that threaten to cripple the country’s vibrant economy.

With reports that France wanted to go and lobby African leaders in Addis Ababa ahead of the African Union summit, N’Guessan said the continent should not be lectured to, or have decisions, foisted on it.

“It is very scandalous that today in 2011, France still behaves like a colonial master. Africans can intervene and have a say but not France and the Western nations!

“African countries should stand up against the new form of colonisation,” said N’Guessan.

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