Time for outside force in Ivory Coast: Raila Odinga

NAIROBI Thu Mar 10, 2011 12:20pm EST

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Ivory Coast's Laurent Gbagbo has no business clinging onto power after losing elections and the time for outside military intervention has come, Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga said on Thursday.

Odinga made two visits to Ivory Coast earlier this year as the African Union's envoy but failed to persuade Gbagbo to step aside and let the internationally recognized winner of the November 28 election, Alassane Ouattara, take office.

"The intransigence of Mr Gbagbo does not portend well for Ivory Coast. I see that the conflict is already returning," Odinga told Reuters. "I fear this conflict will spread."

"ECOWAS had announced that they were not ruling out the use of legitimate force to bring back order into Ivory Coast. I think that the time has come," he said in an interview, referring to West Africa's regional bloc.

"Mr Gbagbo has no business continuing in power. He needs to surrender power to Mr Ouattara."

After Odinga's missions, the African Union set up a panel of five heads of state to find a peaceful way out of the crisis in the world's top cocoa grower that has killed hundreds and appalled U.S. President Barack Obama.

However, Gbabgo's foreign minister, Alcide Djedje, said on Thursday in Addis Ababa that they would never accept any proposal from the AU panel which calls on Gbagbo to step down.

Odinga said Ouattara had agreed a number of guarantees during his visits, such as letting Gbabgo stay in Ivory Coast and remain politically active, or to leave without fear of being pursued for crimes against humanity by The Hague.

He said the AU had initially taken a strong stance on Ivory Coast but was now prevaricating when it should be standing by its charter, which calls for non-indifference to human rights violations or bad governance.

"Unfortunately, that is not being used properly because member states with problems of governance have an upper hand in the AU," Odinga said. "This actually restricts or limits the AU's options of action."

"SOONER RATHER THAN LATER"

Odinga also warned it was only a matter of time before the unrest that has rocked North Africa spread to countries on the rest of the continent that have failed to embrace democracy.

He said holding periodic elections which were insufficient to ensure democratic governance would not stop the contagion, especially if the gulf between rich and poor remained.

"The events in North Africa and the Middle East should be like a wake up call to the rest of the continent of Africa, because these are countries which have outwardly enjoyed what you call political stability, and all of sudden there's this eruption," Odinga said.

"Sub-Saharan Africa needs to take a lesson from what is happening in North Africa and to know that it is not an isolated phenomena and that it will, sooner rather than later, come down south," he said.

The Kenyan prime minister also criticised the idea of forming power-sharing governments after disputed elections as a "virus" that is spreading in Africa.

Odinga says he was cheated out of the presidency by incumbent Mwai Kibaki in 2007 elections. Weeks of violence that followed took east Africa's biggest economy to the brink of collapse before a power-sharing deal was struck.

Under the agreement, Kibaki remained president and Odinga was appointed to the new position of prime minister. But the fragile coalition government has remained dogged by infighting and suspicion since.

"In my view, the Kenyan solution is no solution. Africa has reached a stage where people must have a democratic culture, the democratic culture must take root."

(Editing by Giles Elgood)

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