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African Leaders To Ask UN For Serious Help In Ivory Coast

Leaders attending the ECOWAS summit on March 23, 2011. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images

Leaders attending the ECOWAS summit on March 23, 2011.

PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images

Today's the deadline for Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo to transfer power to the internationally acknowledged president, Alassane Ouattara, who beat him in national elections last year. Gbagbo rejected all calls for him to leave and probably won't have a sudden change of heart today. The deadline was set by the African Union, which keeps sending diplomats and heads of state on visits to persuade Gbagbo to go. He's received the guests but rebuffed their demands.

Now members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are talking about the Ivorian crisis in two days of meetings in Nigeria. West African leaders once threatened Gbagbo with military intervention if he wouldn't leave. He's called their bluff and it looks like he's succeeding. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan told reporters:

"As the situation in Cote d'Ivoire deteriorates, we must not make the mistake of underestimating the threat it poses to the peace and security of the region. We must therefore remain united to bring to an end the unfortunate political crisis, hopefully without resort to the use of legitimate force".

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NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton says ECOWAS will likely ask the United Nations to take more serious steps. BTW - there are some 11,000 peacekeepers already in Ivory Coast. They're protecting Gbagbo's rival, Ouattara, and civilians. But Ofeibea reports civilians are still fleeing by the thousands because of terror and violence.