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PM RAILA TO MEDIATE IN IVORY COAST...?

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Denzel Musumba

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Prime Minister Raila Odinga will lead the African Union efforts to resolve the political crisis in Cote d’Ivoire. A statement from the AU commission headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Monday announced the selection of Mr Odinga. However, the PM will not join a delegation of heads of state from Ecowas - from Benin, Sierra Leone and Cape Verde - who travel to Cote d’Ivoire on Tuesday to convince Laurent Gbagbo to step aside, his office said. Instead, Mr Odinga said he would lead another delegation in case the Ecowas leaders fail to convince Mr Gbagbo to cede power to his challenger Alassane Ouattara. “The PM was not able to join the delegation to Abidjan but he promised that if the delegation does not succeed he will lead another one to try to stop the country’s slide to chaos,” Mr Odinga’s Spokesman Dennis Onyango said in a statement. “In the meantime he has agreed to use diplomatic connections to focus more attention on Cote d’Ivoire and push for a peaceful end to the conflict in a way that ensures democracy is served,” the statement added. Mr Odinga now becomes the AU’s point man in efforts to resolve the standoff caused by Mr Gbagbo’s refusal to vacate power despite the AU, EU, the UN, US recognising Mr Ouattara as the winner of the November election. The AU Commission chief Jean Ping said he had asked Mr Odinga to “lead the monitoring of the situation in Cote d’Ivoire and bolster the efforts being undertaken” to end the turmoil. Mr Odinga was named prime minister in 2008 in a coalition government set up to end weeks of unrest after a disputed presidential election. However, the PM has recently called for the forceful removal of Mr Gbagbo, who is in a tussle with rival Mr Ouattara over the country’s leadership. Both men have declared themselves president of the West African nation. Some 14,000 people have fled to neighbouring Liberia following the crisis, and the UN says it is prepared for 30,000 refugees in the region.

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