West African Leaders Meet to Debate Ivory Coast's Post Election Crisis

West African leaders will discuss the political crisis in Ivory Coast today as Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara continue to make competing claims to the presidency of the world’s top cocoa grower.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who is the current chairman of the Economic Community of West African States, called on Ivory Coast’s leaders to “respect and fully implement the verdict of the Ivorian people as declared by the Independent Electoral Commission,” according to a statement yesterday.

The commission declared Ouattara, 68, winner of the Nov. 28 election with 54.1 percent of votes. The announcement was rejected by the Constitutional Council that alleged irregularities in northern states and named Gbagbo, the 65-year- old incumbent, victor. Gbagbo was sworn in as president on Dec. 4. Hours later, Ouattara said he had taken the oath of office. The United Nations, the European Union and the U.S. have all backed Ouattara.

The regional bloc meeting may not yield a breakthrough, “as many of the leaders have their own internal headaches and none has the stature to force the actors in Ivory Coast to bend to their will,” said Sebastian Spio-Garbrah, chief analyst for African frontier markets with DaMina Advisors, based in New York.

Curfew

The election was meant to unite the Ivory Coast, which has been divided into a rebel-held north and government-controlled south since a 2002 uprising. The dispute over the results produced an increase in violence that has left several dead, with Ouattara supporters taking to the streets in protest. A night-time curfew, which was instituted before the vote, has been extended for another week, Radiodiffusion Television Ivoirienne reported yesterday.

Cocoa for March delivery climbed for the fourth consecutive trading day, rising 19 pounds, or 1 percent, to 2,064 pounds by 12:57 p.m. in London today. Supplies of the beans in Ivory Coast are being disrupted by workers staying away over fears of unrest, according to company officials.

Former South African President Thabo Mbeki went to Ivory Coast on Dec. 5 to mediate an agreement between the two sides. He was appointed by the African Union after he led previous mediation efforts during the uprising. He was scheduled to leave yesterday to give a report to the Addis Ababa-based AU, his spokesman Mukoni Ratshitanga said.

‘Real Risk’

“There is real risk of serious instability if either side believes it is likely to lose influence during the Mbeki-led mediation process,” said Rolake Akinola, an independent Africa analyst.

Economic growth in Ivory Coast has averaged 1.1 percent in the eight years since the conflict started as the cocoa- dependent country missed out on the wave of foreign investment in Africa from such nations as China.

The country now risks stalling $3 billion in debt relief under the International Monetary Fund and World Bank’s Heavily Indebted Poor Country initiative, Akinola said in an e-mail from London yesterday.

Some 460 United Nations staff were temporarily relocated to Gambia from Ivory Coast, Reuters reported yesterday, citing UN spokesman Martin Nesirky.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net.

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