Renewed calls for end to Cote d'Ivoire impasse

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Pretoria - The South African government has called on the African Union and the UN to speed up their bid for a peaceful resolution of the Cote d'Ivoire political crisis, which it said was rapidly turning into a civil war. 

International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoane Mashabane on Tuesday said quests to find a "political solution" was the only sustainable approach to ensuring long term stability in Cote d'Ivoire, five months after the disputed November election. 

Both the incumbent Laurent Gbagbo and opposition leader Alassane Ouattara claimed victory and swore themselves in as president of the country, effectively forming their respective governments.

On Sunday, an aircraft was sent to evacuate all South African citizens still trapped in Cote d'Ivoire, with Nkoana Mashabane confirming that all those affected were safe and ready to return home.

"The continued senseless killing of civilians, threats and acts of intimidation as well as the rising numbers of refugees is a serious violation of human rights," she said. 

An AU Peace and Security Council panel set up to deal with the crisis has been evaluating the situation in Cote d'Ivoire since the international community, including the AU, resolved that Outtara was the only legitimate president. 

Nkoana Mashabane on Tuesday told reporters during a briefing that Pretoria further supported the call for Gbagbo to immediately hand over power Ouattara in order to avoid further bloodshed. 

On the issue of Libya, where another political crisis has seen thousands of civilians fleeing that country, Nkoana Mashabane said South Africa stood by its decision to vote for a no-fly zone. The decision was taken "based on the will to protect civilians" and did not mean that South Africa subscribed to any regime change. 

Ten of the UN Security Council's 15 members voted in favour of the resolution, with Russia, China, Germany, India and Brazil withholding their vote.

"Our support of the resolution is based on our values of human rights, human dignity and freedoms, which behooved of us not to be silent while people were being massacred in Libya by the regime ... We do not subscribe to regime change but we support peaceful means in change of leadership," Nkoana Mashabane said.

As a member of the AU High Level Committee appointed to mediate in the conflict, South Africa was prepared to assist Libya re-establish peace, security and political reform in that country.

"Our expectations are that a peaceful and political situation based on the will of the Libyan people and their legitimate aspirations for democracy peace, justice and respect for human rights will prevail in Libya," added Nkoana Mashabane. - BuaNews

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