Embattled Ivorian strongman Laurent Gbabgo on Thursday evening dispatched a special envoy to Harare for urgent meetings with President Mugabe’s senior officials in what is suspected to have been a “solidarity lobby mission”.
Although he benefited from the international community’s support which brought him to power in 2000, Gbagbo has repeatedly used an anti-imperialist rhetoric to condemn his international critics including his neighbours of unduly interfering in the internal affairs of his country; a favourite tactic of Mugabe who regularly accuses critics of his controversial rule of attempting to undermine Zimbabwe’s sovereignty.
Zogeu Abie, Ivorian ambassador to South Africa, jetted into Harare for a closed door meeting with acting president John Nkomo, — in the absence of President Robert Mugabe who is currently out of the country on his traditional January leave — reportedly, to seek Harare’s support for Gbagbo’s bid to retain power.
And following the Ivorian ambassador’s failure to meet the local media, as he flew back to South Africa immediately after meeting Nkomo, Mugabe’s official spokesman George Charamba told journalists in Harare that Zogeu Abie had come to brief the Acting President on the situation in his country.
“He was asking for an international commission to come in and evaluate the whole poll process on voting and where to get the truth on what happened […] He (Abie) said there must a recount of votes and a peaceful resolution to the crisis”
According to George Charamba, Zimbabwe “could not take an independent position but will only follow a cue from the African Union, which is due to meet on 31 January in Addis Ababa”.
In December, Afrik-News reported that Mugabe’s supporters were ecstatic after Gbagbo suggested that Mugabe was justified in holding on to power despite an election defeat.
“When you go through what I’ve been through, you tell yourself: ’Perhaps Mugabe wasn’t completely wrong after all’,” Gbagbo said in December.
Gbagbo is under growing international pressure to relinquish power after a disputed poll which left the West African country with two presidents, with his opponent, former International Monetary Fund top executive Alassane Ouattara, being recognised by regional, continental and international communities.
Mugabe loyalists say the West is attempting a coup in the Ivory Coast by coercing regional countries to use force on Gbagbo to give up power.
However, unlike the Southern African Development Community that has tip-toed around Mugabe, the Economic Community of West Africa has been more robust in its condemnation of Gbabgo, even threatening military action against him should he continue to refuse to hand over power to Ouattara.