Ecowas military chiefs finalise Gbagbo ouster plan
West African military chiefs have set in motion plans to oust Côte d’Ivoire’s Laurent Gbagbo if negotiations fail, a Nigerian defence official said Friday. And France has renewed its call for citizens to leave the country, especially if they have children.
Military chiefs from Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Liberia, Mali, Senegal, Togo, Niger and Nigeria met in Abuja under the aegis of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas).
"The committee of chiefs of defence staff met on Tuesday and Wednesday to put machinery in motion that if all political persuasions fail ... Ecowas will forcefully take over power from Laurent Gbagbo and hand over to Alassane Ouattara," Colonel Mohamed Yerimah said.
Ecowas has a standby troubleshooting force of 6,500 soldiers which officials said is almost ready to deploy.
A follow-up meeting to fine-tune the logistics is scheduled for Mali on 17-18 January.
Yerimah said member countries will be expected to contribute troops and materials for the operation.
But Ghana on Thursday announced it will not send any troops to Côte d’Ivoire on the grounds that it has overstretched its capacity in peacekeeping operations elsewhere.
Nigeria, traditionally the largest contributor of troops to Ecowas missions, has pressing security needs back home with upcoming elections and outbursts of sectarian violence and the oil militancy.
A delegation of three west African presidents, which paid a fruitless visit to Abidjan on Tuesday, is due to return on Monday.
France on Friday repeated advice to its roughly 14,000 citizens to leave Côte d’Ivoire while the political turmoil continues.
"Although foreign nationals are not at present threatened, the French authorities renew their advice ... to all French who can, in particular families with children, to temporarily leave Côte d’Ivoire," the foreign ministry said.
The country is a former French colony has Gbagbo has accused President Nicolas Sarkozy of neo-colonial interference in its affairs.
French citizens were targeted by pro-Gbagbo gangs in 2004 after French troops destroyed the entire Ivorian air force in reaction to the death of nine of their comrades in an air strike.
RFI’s Jean Hélène was killed by an Ivorian police sergeant in 2003.
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