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Ex-Nigerian president Obasanjo goes to Ivory Coast

Sunday, January 9, 2011

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast -- Former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo made an unannounced visit to Ivory Coast late Saturday in an effort to help resolve the country's deepening political crisis after several other West African leaders have failed to persuade the incumbent to cede power.

An Associated Press reporter saw Obasanjo arrive at a luxury Abidjan hotel surrounded by bodyguards, but he declined to comment further on his plans. The top U.N. envoy in Ivory Coast, Choi Young-jin, said Obasanjo was there to "discuss the post-electoral crisis."

The international community has said that Alassane Ouattara won the country's election but the incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo has refused for more than a month to concede defeat and step down.

A delegation of presidents from three other West African countries visited Gbagbo twice in an effort to persuade him to hand over power to Ouattara. Gbagbo, though, has rebuffed those efforts and human rights groups accuse his security forces of abducting and killing political opponents.

The 15-nation regional bloc ECOWAS had threatened to use military force to oust Gbagbo, but support for such an operation is unclear. On Friday, the president of Ghana said his country is not able to send troops.

The international community has been uncharacteristically unanimous in its assertion that Ouattara won because of a 2005 accord -- signed by Gbagbo -- which called for the U.N. to certify the results. It was a safeguard negotiated by the various political factions to make it impossible for someone to steal the election.

Both the European Union and the United States have imposed visa bans on more than 50 of Gbagbo's closest associates, a painful blow to the elite of this former French colony who are used to vacationing abroad. In an unusual move intended to create pressure by proxy, the United States has also included family members of Gbagbo allies, including their children.

The former Nigerian president Obasanjo left office in 2007 after term limits kept him from running again. The handover to his successor was Nigeria's first civilian-to-civilian transfer since independence from Britain in 1960.


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