Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –
Bowing to international pressure and the threat of a regional war, embattled Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo has stepped back from a hardline position defending his contested re-election, reports from the region say.
West African mediators said President Gbagbo agreed to negotiate a "peaceful end" to the crisis without preconditions and lift the blockade around the hotel where his rival, Alassane Dramane Ouattara, has been stationed for weeks.
Mediators from ECOWAS, the African Union and the United Nations all recognize results showing Ouattara as the winner of a November poll and have urged Mr. Gbagbo to step down.
Complicating the battle between presidential rivals is the division of the country into power bases – a northern one which backs Mr. Ouattara, and a southern one which backs the government. In recent years, ethnic rivalries fueled government-tolerated sweeps of marketplaces and slums in the principal city Abidjan that caused hundreds of northern and non-Ivorian residents to be dispossessed.
In a recent interview on the DemocracyNow news program, Ivory Coast political analyst Gnaka Lagoke of the website AfricanDiplomacy warned of the risks of military intervention to settle the crisis.
“It is a very bad idea,” he said. “Ivory Coast is a microcosm of a united Africa with 26 percent of the population from (neighboring) countries. In a typical Ivorian family, one parent comes from a traditional ethnic group and the other parent comes from a foreign country. So if you attack Ivory Coast, you’re not just destroying or killing people from (President) Gbagbo’s tribe, but you’re destroying a microcosm of the united Africa.”
Syracuse Professor Horace Campbell, on the same show, responded: “I agree that the question of the Ivory Coast is not about Gbagbo or Ouattara. (But) the question is whether all citizens of the Ivory Coast will have the right to participate in the political system. What is at stake here is the long challenge that people from the north who are considered from Islamic background, whose parents migrated to the Ivory Coast, whether they can participate in the political process and become leaders of the country.“
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