Rival Presidents Paralyze Post-Election Ivory Coast A Nov. 28 election was meant to heal Ivory Coast, the West African nation split in two by civil war. But the incumbent president refuses to concede defeat, leaving the nation with two parallel governments, only deepening the mutual enmity and threatening to reignite violence.
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Rival Presidents Paralyze Post-Election Ivory Coast

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Rival Presidents Paralyze Post-Election Ivory Coast

Rival Presidents Paralyze Post-Election Ivory Coast

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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

There's a tense political stand-off in the West African nation of Ivory Coast. Two political rivals are both claiming to be president after a runoff election last week that was supposed to decide between the two of them. So far, mediation attempts have failed. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports from the country's largest city, Abidjan.

OFEIBEA QUIST: The outcome is a presidential tug of war that sparked some violence in once stable and prosperous Ivory Coast. Enter the African Union's mediator, former South African president, Thabo Mbeki.

(SOUNDBITE OF DRUMS)

M: The view of the African Union is that the matter is very serious, and that, among other things, it is important not to have violence, not to return to war and to find a peaceful solution to all these problems. It is serious.

QUIST: And there's saber-rattling from the rebels, who have long claimed their part of the country is marginalized. They've warned of unspecified action unless Gbagbo steps down. Mbeki has spent the past two days shuttling between the presidential rivals. Ouattara sent this message to Gbagbo, through the mediator.

QUIST: (Through translator) I told President Mbeki, very clearly, I am the president of Ivory Coast and that I am receiving him in that capacity. And I'm asking him to urge Mr. Gbagbo not to cling to power and to step aside as he should do after losing an election.

QUIST: But the situation remains tense. Plumes of black smoke billowed in some neighborhoods here in Abidjan yesterday, where young men burned tires and demanded Gbagbo's departure. The leader of the pro-Gbagbo Young Patriots Movement say Ouattara should go.

M: Our laws are meant to be respected. You can't declare the results of an election in a hotel.

QUIST: With both sides refusing to budge, that's making it tough on the mediator, Thabo Mbeki. He failed to strike a deal, but made this appeal to the rival leaders before leaving Ivory Coast last night.

M: The African Union is very, very, very keen, indeed, that peace in Cote d'Ivoire should be sustained and that also, every effort should be made to ensure that indeed this transition to democracy succeeds. Cote d'Ivoire needs peace and Cote d'Ivoire needs democracy.

QUIST: Anxious Ivorians, like Eric Agneho, just want their political leaders to reconcile and an end to the presidential power struggle.

M: I don't know, I don't know. I feel like a nightmare, you know. People are getting tired now. And we don't know when it's going to end. It's a nightmare, it's a nightmare. Today, it's like déjàvu.

QUIST: Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Abidjan.

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