|Gbagbo left, |
Nairobi — The African Union has retreated from its earlier position on a possible military intervention in Cote d'Ivoire if the incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo does not hand over to Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognized winner of the elections last November.
The AU had initially asked Mr Gbagbo to step down or face the threat of legitimate removal including through a military option.
But on Saturday, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the AU mediator in the Cote d'Ivoire crisis, said they would now pursue a negotiated settlement instead.
"The declared AU and ECOWAS positions are not about the use of force. Both organizations are committed to a peaceful resolution of the crisis firstly on principle and secondly because a negotiated settlement is the best way to lay the foundation for an inclusive and stable Ivorian nation after years of conflict," Mr Odinga said.
Since Mr Odinga was appointed to mediate in the political standoff in Cote d'Ivoire, little obvious headway has been made to resolve the crisis.
Mr Odinga said the two leaders must now meet face-to-face and negotiate a peaceful settlement.
"Every day lost in moving forward towards a peaceful resolution of the crisis makes more imminent the spectre of further threats to peace and security in Ivory Coast and the region. That in turn would create continent-wide divisions," Mr Odinga said.
He, however, added that Africa must stand ready to deploy other measures if a settlement cannot be agreed through negotiations.
"Our efforts are not about imposing democracy or free and fair elections. They are about avoiding a much greater disaster," Mr Odinga said.
Earlier this week, Ugandan President Museveni commented on the Ivorian crisis, suggesting instead that the AU sets up an ad hoc committee to find out how the conduct and results of the vote have generated a difference of opinion.
"There is a need for a serious approach that involves investigating the (electoral) process, including registration of voters and who voted," presidential spokesman Tamale Mirundi said, quoting Mr Museveni.
"There should be investigations, not just declaring who has won. No, no, no!"
The West African country held a presidential rerun vote on November 28 in which the international community says Mr Ouattara defeated Mr Gbagbo.The UN, the AU and other international bodies have since asked Mr Gbagbo to peacefully hand over power to his rival.
But Mr Odinga described the political standoff in Ivory Coast as an African crisis for which only Africa can find a durable solution.
"It is, therefore, vital that we in the AU lead the way in immediately mobilising national, regional and international action to find a peaceful end to the crisis on the basis of resolutions already adopted by the AU and Ecowas," said Mr Odinga.