President Jakaya Kikwete is among six African leaders expected to meet Ivory Coast’s incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo and his rival Allassane Ouattara today in a bid to end the country’s political crisis.
Kikwete, who left the country yesterday for Nouakchott, Mauritania, was to join five other African heads of state, which form the High Level Panel for the Resolution of the Crisis in Ivory Coast.
The meeting was expected to be opened by Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who is the chair of the panel.
Other heads are from Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Chad, South Africa and Equatorial Guinea, which holds the African Union (AU) chair. Nigeria is also attending in its capacity as chair of the Economic Commission of West Africa Union (Ecowas).
A statement issued by the State House in Dar es Salaam yesterday said the six countries were chosen at the AU meeting held in November in Addis Ababa.
Tension has been high in the one-time politically stable West African state after the election rerun monitored by the United Nations gave former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara a 54.1 per cent win over incumbent President Gbagbo.
The mandate was given to the UN in accordance with the Linas-Marcoussis agreement of 2004 and the Ouagadougou agreement of 2007.
The country’s constitutional council which nullified election results in seven provinces in Ouattara’s stronghold in the north picked Gbagbo as the winner.
Despite calls from the international community, Gbagbo has refused to step down on the basis of the council’s decision, claiming that he is the rightful winner.
Since then, the international community including the European Union, Ecowas, African Union and the US, has rallied behind Ouattara, slapping economic sanctions against Gbagbo’s side with some countries advocating that he should be removed by force.