Ivory Coast: Laurent Gbagbo on his way out, says French official

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Henri Guaino, special advisor to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Monday announced that the departure of the outgoing president of Côte d’Ivoire is “on track”. This comes after Laurent Gbagbo’s refusal to step down following an advice from a panel of heads of state mandated by the African Union to find solutions to the Ivorian crisis. Informal discussions have been ongoing since the end of international mediation efforts.

In spite of Laurent Gbagbo’s refusal to relinquish power the French government believes in his imminent departure, Nicolas Sarkozy’s special adviser indicated Monday on Radio Monte Carlo (RMC). Côte d’Ivoire’s outgoing president’s departure, sought by the entire international community which validated Alassane Ouattara as the legitimate winner of last year’s presidential elections, is “on track”.

Henri Guaino posits that the French government “hopes to achieve an outcome” from the “discussions, negotiations and influence games that are being deployed around the Ivorian case”. The only uncertainty, according to him, is the date. “I can not tell you how soon (…) There is always an element of uncertainty, we shall see what steps we must take if we do not get the (intended) result. But for now we are hopeful,” he said.

After the 28 November 2010 presidential election saw the swearing in of the two presidents in Côte d’Ivoire the international community called for the departure of Laurent Gbagbo from power. And despite negotiations carried out by the African Union and ECOWAS, who want him to recognise his electoral defeat as a prerequisite to any discussion, Laurent Gbagbo has refused to budge.

Laurent Gbagbo had hoped that the AU mandated mission in February to find binding solutions to the Ivorian crisis would lead to his recognition as president-elect. But the panel of five African leaders, like its predecessors, concluded that his opponent, Alassane Ouatarra, won the elections and advised Laurent Gbagbo to hand over power to his rival.

Meanwhile, Alassane Ouattara (ADO), who has been holed up at the Hotel du Golf in Abidjan since the end of the election, has began laying the foundation to control the country’s military. Thursday he announced the creation of his army, the Republican Forces of Côte d’Ivoire (FRCI) to a group of diplomats and officials.

According to some Ivorian newspapers, Alassane Ouattara’s decision could be a sort of emancipation from the military tutelage of Guillaume Soro, his prime minister, who controls the insurgent Forces Nouvelles (FN). The FN is believed to have revived the guerrilla war against the Ivorian army which is loyal to Laurent Gbagbo.

Reports from the Ivory Coast media noted that General Soumaila Bakayoko, Michel Gueu, Wattao and Cherif Ousmane, all known as major FN leaders, were absent at the launching of the FRCI at the Golf Hotel.

Henri Guaino’s declarations revealed that despite the formal end of negotiations in Côte d’Ivoire informal talks are still ongoing. 400 people have died since the crisis began while several thousands have taken refuge in neighboring countries, mainly in Guinea, Liberia and Mali.

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