- Title: IVORY COAST: Gbagbo backers protest against African Union panel
- Date: 6th February 2011
- Summary: VARIOUS OF SINGER PERFORMING ON STAGE/CROWD SWAYING TO MUSIC
- Embargoed: 21st February 2011 12:00
- Location: Cote d'Ivoire
- Country: Ivory Coast
- Topics: International Relations,Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVAC5879WI4NB7VUVGBCVW57XBJ8
- Story Text: Several thousand youths loyal to Ivory Coast incumbent Laurent Gbagbo marched through Abidjan on Saturday (February 5) to protest against the presence of Burkina Faso's president on a mediation panel aiming to resolve a post-election crisis.
At the end of last month, the African Union's Peace and Security Council gave five African leaders a one-month mandate to seek a solution to the violent power struggle between Gbagbo and rival presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara.
Their conclusions are intended to be binding on both sides but some in Ivory Coast appear sceptical over the AU panel's role.
''When the panel arrives in Ivory Coast, the panel is not coming to rewrite the constitution of the Ivory Coast. The panel is not coming to rewrite the laws of Ivory Coast. Everything that is done must be done according to the laws of Ivory Coast,'' Gbagbo's youth leader, Ble Goude, told a rally, drawing loud applause.
Ouattara was declared winner of a November 28 vote according to U.N.-certified results. But Gbagbo has refused to concede and has the backing of the military, which he has used to entrench his position and besiege the hotel his rival is using as a base.
He has rejected huge international pressure, financial sanctions and threats of force by West African neighbours. Several previous AU mediation efforts have also failed to resolve the standoff.
The presence of Burkina Faso president, Blaise Compaore, on the panel is proving contentious. Diplomats say he is furious with Gbagbo for refusing to accept the election results.
Gbagbo's supporters also accuse Compaore of abetting a 2002 rebellion by Ivorian troops of northern origin and of being complicit in the Ivorian crisis.
''He was a facilitator, he became the one who complicates. This is the truth. The facilitator became the one who complicates," Goude told the rally.
Gbagbo has officially accepted the panel, but he has a habit of expressing his discontent by mobilising his supporters to demonstrate in the streets.
The November election was supposed to draw a line under years of political and military stalemate since a 2002-03 war partitioned the world's top cocoa-growing country, but has only worsened the divisions that sparked the conflict in the first place.
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