Abidjan: A top ally of the man widely recognised as Ivory Coast`s president said incumbent Laurent Gbagbo is using stalling tactics to stay in power and urged the international community on Saturday to intervene with "legitimate force" to remove him.
Meanwhile, Gbagbo supporters who were called on to remove Alassane Ouattara from the Golf Hotel on New Year`s morning failed to materialise as United Nations Bangladeshi riot police guarded the hotel`s entryway in full crowd-control attire.
Ouattara`s Prime Minister, Guillaume Soro, said on Saturday that Gbagbo would only leave power by force and that the international community will have to intervene to protect democracy in Africa. He dismissed Gbagbo`s offer to invite an international investigation into the country as a delay tactic.
"It was this same type of distracting proposition that he used to hold on for five years without an election," Soro said. "Enough is enough. Mr Gbagbo must leave power."
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who also holds the rotating presidency of ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States, is due in Abidjan on Monday to negotiate Gbagbo`s departure. ECOWAS threatened to use military force to remove Gbagbo if he doesn`t leave freely, but failed to persuade him to go into exile when its first delegation came to Ivory Coast on Monday.
The UN has said the volatile West African nation once divided in two faces a real risk of return to civil war, but Soro said this war has already begun.
"In any country that records more than 200 dead in five days, as the UN has certified, it`s war. When a country experiences a massive population flight of the population — more than 20,000 Ivorians who leave their country to seek refuge in a country like Liberia — it`s war," he said.
In New York on Saturday, the United Nations said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke with Ouattara by telephone and assured him that the international community was working to try to end the stalemate in Ivory Coast.
Ban said he appreciated "the restraint and patience being shown even in the face of provocative acts" and reaffirmed the United Nations` "principled and unwavering position on upholding the election outcome" that should have put Ouattara in office.
The secretary-general also expressed concern about reports of human rights violations and pledge that UN security forces would do their best to document abuses and prevent further atrocities.
Human rights groups accuse incumbent Gbagbo`s security forces of abducting and killing political opponents, though Gbagbo allies deny the allegations and say some of the victims were security forces killed by protesters. The UN has confirmed at least 173 deaths.
Gbagbo gave an address late Friday on state television in which he accused the international community of mounting a coup d`état to oust him and said Ivorians were being subjected to international hostility.
"No one has the right to call on foreign armies to invade his country," Gbagbo said. "Our greatest duty to our country is to defend it from foreign attack."
The United Nations had been invited by all parties to certify the results of the November 28 presidential runoff vote. The UN declared Ouattara the winner, endorsing the announcement by the country`s electoral commission. But Gbagbo has refused to step aside now for more than a month, defying international condemnation and growing calls for his ouster.