Power-sharing wrong for Ivory Coast – Tsvangirai

BRUSSELS,- Setting up a power-sharing government to end the post-election dispute in Ivory Coast would set a bad example to other African countries, Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said on Monday.

Elections in Ivory Coast were meant to unify the West African country after a 2002-2003 civil war, but have resulted in deadlock as presidential challenger Alassane Ouattara and incumbent Laurent Gbagbo both claimed victory.

Tsvangirai, whose party was forced into a Zimbabwean unity government with President Robert Mugabe after a disputed 2008 poll, said a power-sharing coalition would not serve the people of Ivory Coast.

"I’m sure that will be the solution again — have a coalition as a solution. They already have a template for it. It is called ‘go through the back door and still retain the power that you lost through the mandate of the people’," Tsvangirai told Reuters in an interview.

"The unfortunate thing is that we are seeing this repetition of people losing an election and want(ing) to come back to restore their power position through the back door. It is not different from Kenya, it is not different from Zimbabwe, now we have got Ivory Coast," he said.

Rival Kenyan leaders signed a power-sharing deal in 2008 to end a wave of violence that killed more than 1,300 people after a disputed election the previous December.

Gbagbo has been sworn in for a new term as Ivorian president with the backing of the military, even though the electoral commission said the winner was Ouattara, who is backed by former rebels in the north.

The stalemate has raised tensions in the West African country, prompting the African Union to send former South African president Thabo Mbeki to mediate.

Mbeki played a role in 2008 in mediating the deal in Zimbabwe that put Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) into a power-sharing government with Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party.

Their unity government has lurched from one crisis to another as the sworn enemies fail to agree key policies, appointments to top government positions and a reform roadmap for the southern African state.

"It does not serve the people; it is a very wrong precedent. People are only looking for stability. It (power-sharing) is a bad precedent. It is (a) wrong precedent for Africa’s democratic development, even if it applies to my own country," Tsvangirai said.

Meanwhile, Ivory Coast’s presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara offered government posts on Monday to members of his rival Laurent Gbagbo’s cabinet, if Gbagbo stepped down.

It was the latest manoeuvre in a power struggle that has enveloped the West African state since an election that yielded two winners — Ouattara with international backing, and Gbagbo with the support of the nation’s top legal body and military.

The November 28 poll was meant to reunite the former regional economic star after a 2002-03 civil war, but analysts warned the dispute could now pit the army against pro-Ouattara rebels, who told Reuters they would defend themselves from any attack.

"If Laurent Gbagbo agrees to leave power quietly, the ministers from his party would be welcome in the government we plan to lead," Guillaume Soro, Ivory Coast’s premier who has pledged to serve Ouattara, told France’s Europe 1 radio.

The political deadlock gripped the world’s top cocoa grower after the Constitutional Council — run by a Gbagbo ally — scrapped hundreds of thousands of votes from Ouattara strongholds, reversing provisional results from the election commission that had given Ouattara victory.

U.S. President Barack Obama has sided with Ouattara, leading calls from the United Nations, France, the European Union, the African Union and West African bloc ECOWAS that Gbagbo accept the election commission outcome. ECOWAS leaders are due to hold an emergency summit on Ivory Coast on Tuesday.

Gbagbo has scorned the international rejection as an affront to Ivorian sovereignty and has threatened to expel the U.N. Ivory Coast envoy for interference in internal affairs.

Citing a "breakdown of governance", the World Bank and the African Development Bank said they would reassess aid, adding pressure on Gbagbo.

Ouattara has already named Gbagbo’s former finance minister, Charles Koffi Dibby, to his cabinet, a move which would strip Gbagbo of an official praised for his handling of debt talks. Dibby was not available to confirm he had switched sides.

FINANCIAL IMPACT

The World Bank has tied the cancellation of $3 billion of external debt, estimated at $12.5 billion, to smooth elections. But Gbagbo’s hand on the economy is strengthened by revenues from cocoa, oil and other commodities.

Benchmark ICE cocoa futures traded at a four-month high of $3,028 a tonne on Monday.

Several cocoa exporters suspended activities in the wake of election violence that has caused at least 15 deaths. But a regular industry estimate on Monday put port arrivals at around 427,000 tonnes in the season to December 5, only a few thousand tonnes less than at the same point last year.

Despite the political stand-off, Ivory Coast reopened international borders on Monday that had been sealed during a tense wait for the results, and traffic in the business district of the economic capital Abidjan was nearly back to normal.

"The international community has got to play a straight game otherwise it will be a mess in this country. Ouattara’s forming his government, Gbagbo’s forming his — where will it end?" said civil servant Maurice Fallet.

ARMY BACKING

The army chief of staff has sworn allegiance to Gbagbo and troops appear to be on his side for now. Ouattara has the support of the New Forces rebels occupying the north.

"We’ve put our troops on alert," New Forces spokesman Seydou Ouattara told Reuters.

"If we are attacked we will defend our zones and we will take the rest of the Ivorian territory," he said, adding he hoped diplomacy would help the country avoid a "bloodbath".

Mediation talks led by former South African President Thabo Mbeki and the two rivals appeared to make no breakthrough on Sunday. It was unclear whether more talks would take place.

Gbagbo has controlled the country for a decade but now faces isolation and international sanctions. Diplomats said Russia, whose Lukoil is exploring for oil there, has blocked efforts in the U.N. Security Council for a clear endorsement of Ouattara.

The crisis in Ivory Coast, once West Africa’s brightest economic star, has forced up the risk premium on the country’s $2.3 billion Eurobond. It is currently yielding 11.67 percent, from below 10 percent before the election.