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Gbagbo Must Go


A picture of a TV screen shows Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo delivering a speech in which he insists he remains the country's true president, 21 Dec 2010

The international community is stepping up pressure on the former president of Cote d'Ivoire to yield to his elected successor in last month's presidential run-off election.

The international community is stepping up pressure on the former president of Cote d'Ivoire to yield to his elected successor in last month's presidential run-off election.

Sanctions against international travel have been imposed on Laurent Gbagbo, his wife and close political allies. The World Bank has halted its loans to Cote d'Ivoire and closed its office there, amid calls to other international lending organizations to do the same. These and other steps are being taken to bring a peaceful end to a political crisis that threatens to renew the violent conflict that until recently the nation appeared to have put behind it. If the standoff escalates, it could destabilize the entire region.

At least 170 people have been killed as armed forces supporting each man clashed in the capital Abidjan and other locations in the West African nation. Hundreds more have been injured since last month's voting when the Independent Electoral Commission proclaimed former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara as the winner. Gbagbo, however, has refused to recognize the results, despite African Union, European Union, United Nations, Economic Community of West African States and United States recognition of Ouattara as the president-elect.

In his stubbornness, Gbagbo is playing a dangerous game with mixed messages about his stand. On the one hand he has said he would welcome an outside "commission of investigation" to review the election results, a role the UN was mandated to play and did so by certifying the electoral commission’s decision. But on the other he orders United Nations peacekeepers out of the country and blocks their supplies at the nation's border crossings.

The message of the Ivorian people is clear, however. Allasane Ouattara has been elected president of Cote d'Ivoire, and it is time for Gbagbo to yield power and go.

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