'No compromise' as mediators tell Gbagbo to step down
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African Union mediator and Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga arrived Monday in Côte d'Ivoire to repeat demands that definant leader Laurent Gbagbo cede power to rival Alassane Ouattara. After Gbagbo failed to heed a 1 January deadline to transfer power peacefully, military commanders continue to finalise plans for his forceful removal.
Odinga will be joined in Abidjan by three regional presidents, Benin's Boni Yayi, Sierra Leone's Ernest Koroma and Cape Verde's Pedro Pires. They represent the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas).
A member of the delegation has said that "there is no point of negotiation" and that the bloc's position has not changed.
Observers say that that amnesty and exile deals will be discussed, but in his New Year message Gbagbo reiterated his belief that he is the rightfully elected president.
“Since last week’s meeting the tone has softened considerably,” said RFI correspondent Marco Chown Oved, from Abidjan.
Chown said that there are splits among African leaders: Some, such as ECOWAS head and Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, believe that only diplomacy should be used to resolve the situation, while others, such as Kenya's Odinga, are opposed to power sharing deals that have proven difficult in the past and provide poor precedents for the future of African democracy.
“But between this hesitation and a full military intervention is a lot of ground to cover,” added Oved.
Meanwhile, a United Nations official investigating alleged abuses says that while a campaign of terror by Gbagbo’s supporters has apparently calmed, he has evidence of extra-judicial killings.
Simon Munzu, the head of UN's human rights division, said that his staff had verified claims of murder, with other reports pending verification.
Gbagbo supporters have twice prevented peacekeepers from visiting the site of an alleged mass grave.
The UN is also investigating reports that doors have been marked to indicate the ethnic status of inhabitants, in what some fear could be the prelude to a civil war divided along ethnic lines.
Charles Ble Goude, the Youth Minister, said that he had been asked to “postpone our plan" to attack the hotel.
He added that he wanted to give negotiations more time to succeed, but warned that he would renew his calls to storm the hotel if Côte d'Ivoire is attacked.
The UN said that up to 500 refugees are fleeing to Liberia each day, with the total already nearing 20,000. The majority of asylum seekers are under 18 years of age and supplies are already running low.
Côte d'Ivoire is the world’s largest cocoa grower, accounting for 33 percent of the world’s output and a quarter of all exports for sub-Saharan Africa’s seventh-biggest economy.
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