South Africa backs AU decision to recognise Ouattara

15 March 2011 - 18:44 By Sapa

South Africa backed all regional moves to resolve the crisis in the Ivory Coast, including the African Union's firm recognition of Alassane Ouattara as the winner of 2010 presidential elections, the foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

"One of the things being said in the pronouncement of the AU is that Outtara is the rightful winner and (Laurent) Gbagbo should step down and South Africa supports that," said ministerial spokesman Clayson Monyela.

This marks a departure from the neutral stance adopted by International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane's last month when she termed the November 28 presidential elections in the west African nation "inconclusive".

She said at the time new information had emerged about the polls, causing Pretoria to question its earlier decision to endorse calls for Gbagbo to relinguish power and seek rather to help the two opposing camps negotiate a settlement.

"It was them who said they don't want to discuss elections again, they want to move forward because they realise that there were some discrepancies with the elections.

"So I don't know if, when they are asking us to find a way forward, we should be stagnating and taking them backward," she said.

Gbagbo on March 10 rejected a proposal made by an AU panel of five heads of state, including South African President Jacob Zuma, in Addis Ababa for unity government to be appointed to resolve Ivory Coast's leadership crisis.

The proposal recognised Ouattara as the new president and allowed for him to appoint a government including members of Gbagbo's party.

Monyela said South Africa's stance prior to the AU meeting in Ethiopia was motivated by the need to allow the panel "time to do its work".

On Tuesday, Nkoana-Mashabane's deputy, Marius Fransman, noted with concern that sustained diplomatic efforts to resolve the standoff had failed and there was a risk the country could "spiral into a bloody civil war".

"As violence and conditions worsen in Cote d'Ivoire as the political impasse continues, the African Union and its international partners have dispatched numerous mediation missions to Abidjan with the intent to find a speedy resolution of the crisis with no positive results."

Fransman said the government would support all regional and sub-regional efforts to find "an amicable solution to the impasse which would reflect the democratic will of the people".

Ivory Coast on Tuesday saw the worst fighting yet since the elections as supporters of Gbagbo repulsed forces loyal to his rival in a battle for control of Abidjan, the country's economic capital.

Fransman said the AU panel was expected to convene its next meeting "as soon as possible" and had invited both Gbagbo and Ouattara to attend.

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