Kenya: Africa Union mediator calls for truce in Ivory Coast crisis

By Mark Oloo in Nairobi – Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga has vowed to press upon Ivory Coast leaders to end the political deadlock facing the West African country.

Mr Odinga was on Monday picked by the African Union (AU) to mediate in the post-election crisis, pitting president Laurent Gbagbo and his challenger Alassane Ouattara.

The Kenyan leader called for truce, saying he believed Gbagbo had portrayed himself as a democrat, having lived for many years while in exile in France.

“Gbagbo should lead by example,” Odinga told journalists in Western Kenya, today.

Odinga is expected to lead AU efforts to end the crisis, which humanitarian officials say has claimed more than 100 lives.

The two Ivorian leaders have formed separate governments, after laying claim to victory in the country’s general election last month.

Election commission results showed Ouattara had won with 54.1 percent of the vote, compared to 45.9 per cent for Gbagbo. The country’s constitutional council, however, controversially cancelled the polls outcome.

Mr Odinga spoke as West African countries, under Ecowas, sent three heads of state to meet Gbagbo, who has defied calls to step down.

Pressure has been piling on Gbagbo to step down, with key allies such as France threatening to slap sanction on the cocoa producer.

Analysts say if not solved in good time, the political crisis could plunge the country into turmoil, similar to post-election violence witnessed in Kenya in 2008, following a disputed presidential election. More than 1,000 civilians were killed in the chaos.

Photo caption: Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga speaks in Nairobi.