According to published reports, ECOWAS has threatened to remove Laurent Gbagdo, Ivory Coast’s incumbent president, through the use of “legitimate force,” after being unable to “coax him into conceding defeat in elections. The West African Organization of States has called for a two-day meeting of its “defense chiefs (on) January 17 to plan future steps” if Gbagdo does not step down by then.

During a BBC report on the worsening situation in the Ivory Coast, a spokesman for Alassane Ouatara said discussions between Ouatara

and Gbagbo are finished. He said a low-level civil war is already in progress, and since Gbagbo dismissed the latest effort by ECOWAS he feels military intervention is inevitable.


Optimism in Sudan

The news service Reuters reports that nearly four million southern Sudanese, which equals half the South’s population are registered to vote in the Jan. 9 referendum that will likely divide the continent’s largest country in two.

“The U.S. State Department said it was optimistic ahead of the vote, which is due to begin” in a few days, “and marks the climax of an 2005 peace deal that ended a civil war sin Sudan that an estimated two million died from violence and famine, and destabilized much of the region.

“Recent remarks and actions from President Omar al Bashir have bolstered optimism about the referendum,” said Reuters. Bashir recently visited Southern Sudan, “in a move that a top official in the South called a ‘good gesture,’ ” according to Reuters. This follows the NCP leader statement that he would respect the results of the referendum.

Abyei may hold key to peace in Sudan

The latest edition of the Royal United Service Journal explains in much detail why the referendum in the oil rich Abyei area will be crucial to regional peace.

The news service IRIN writes that “oil revenue from Abyei accounts for 98 percent of Southern Sudan’s government revenue, and 60 percent of the national budget (according to 2008 figures). The sole export route for the landlocked South is a pipeline running to the North to Port Sudan on the Red Sea. Under the CPA, the two sides divide proceeds from Oil pumped in the South.”

“If the South votes for secession,” according to the Royal United Service Journal, “as it is widely expected, many daunting challenges face the nascent country. If Abyei votes to join a separate South Sudan, the chances that the NCP disputes the border at Abyei are high, either directly or through proxy armed forces. If this occurs the SPLA and NCP will return to war. The SPLA will get support from East African countries and the U.S. (the SPLA are currently being trained by European and U.S. armed resources in an effort to develop a well-trained, disciplined army capable of defending its borders). Khartoum with its eyes on Asia will have little difficulty in securing

military hardware as long as oil contracts are honored. Few want this scenario to play out. There will be mass movement and displacement of people. Minorities are already relocating in anticipation of Southern secession.” To read more go to:

Africans Need To Focus On Peaceful Coexistence

Elizabeth Otitodum, a senior research fellow with the Center for Conflict Resolution in South Africa, recently stressed, in the new year, the need for Africa’s leaders to work in harmony to achieve peace across the continent.

“We need to give support to our continental leaders, but not to glorify them. Everyone needs to work together to make peace happen. I think we need to believe more that Africa can do it, we can resolve the situation we are in, in terms of conflicts, in terms of economic development and in turning around the fortunes of the continent for the better,” she said to PANA, during a international workshop she attended in Nigeria.

Stressing the role of civil society in this area, she said, “We need to have a robust civil society. People on the ground must speak to people voted to power. They need to hold them accountable and they need to organize themselves more. I think civil society has the key role to play in making peace work. It’s not just the leaders, they alone can’t deliver peace.” Looking ahead at the new year, she said, “I think the outlook for Africa currently is positive, because there has been a decline in conflicts over the decades. Conflicts like the one in Cote d’ Ivoire (and) Kenya a few years back, those are the types of issues we need to deal with. Elections have not equated democracy.”

She believes democracy has to serve the people and not just the interest of those voted into office. “We need to re-conceptualize democracy in a way that just did not mean electing people. We need to democratize the development process, with the people at the grassroots level as the critical factor. This should be the characteristics of our new development strategy and the way forward.”

The research fellow participated in a workshop organized by the African Center for Development and Strategic Studies in Iiebu-Ode to review the commitment made by political leaders to Africa’s development.

Jehron Muhammad can be reached at [email protected].