Ivory Coast: South African pastors to the rescue

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A delegation of South African clerics has flown to troubled Ivory Coast in a bid to mediate in the political standoff claiming that chances of success are bright.

Ivory Coast is on a brink of a civil war after a disputed presidential runoff election in December.

Both Laurent Gbagbo and his long-time rival Alassane Ouattara claim to have won last month’s presidential election.

Head of delegation Reverend Kenneth Meshoe of the African Christian Democratic Party left South Africa with Pastor David Thebehali of the Faithways Bible Church.

According to reports Meshoe said Christians from the Ivory Coast “had asked him to undertake the mediation”, and the country’s ambassador to South Africa had encouraged the mission.

On their chances of success, he said they are encouraged by spiritual intervention during the pre-1994 political impasse in South Africa.

“The breakthrough came when an unknown Christian leader mediated. So we are also going there as unknown Christian leaders,” he said.

He said his group had not been in contact with either of the Ivory Coast factions who are at loggerheads.

“We are calling on all South Africans to pray for the success of our mediation efforts in Ivory Coast and for peace to be restored in that country,” he said.

“Africa has had too many wars that cost millions of lives and we cannot afford another.”

West African leaders have met with a United Nations representative in Abidjan at the start of their mediation mission.

Presidents Bon Yayi of Benin, Ernest Koroma of Sierra Leone and Pedro Pires of Cape Verde were sent by the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) to warn Gbagbo that he must cede power or face the use of force.

They left empty handed but the cleric says they can spring surpise. But reports say the post-electoral violence risks spreading further outside Abidjan, where the United Nations say nearly 200 people have been killed already.

According to information picked up from several news sites, clashes between ethnic Dioula and Gueré broke out in the town of Duekoue, 500 kilometers from Abidjan in the extreme west of the country, causing at least two deaths.

A curfew was imposed in the locality where the army is believed to have been deployed.

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