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Commentary: Holding onto power isn't the best path for Ivory Coast

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Rebecca Blackwell/AP

(Read caption) Incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo, center, gestures during a photo opportunity with his newly-named cabinet, at the presidency in Abidjan, Ivory Coast on Dec. 7. The man who the UN says lost Ivory Coast's presidential election is going ahead with naming his new cabinet anyway and tapped someone who's faced international sanctions.

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The whole messy affair in Ivory Coast was easy to predict (I did). The election process once more is being held hostage to the imperatives of a discredited president. Once more, a legitimate challenger is being denied electoral victory. Rather than provoke another poll, the time has come for Laurent Gbagbo to step aside and be replaced by Alassane Ouattara.

The nation-state of Ivory Coast must move past the hollow calculus of counting votes. In the end, the imperatives of political transition – and national healing – demand that Ouattara get his turn as president. Ouattara can do no worse than the baffling Gbagbo, and he likely will do better. Ivory Coast has ample resources, talented people and a choice geographic position. With improved leadership the apparent rift between north and south, Christian a Muslim regions, could be quickly and peacefully closed. For insights into why, and how, see the excellent essay published this fall by Abu Bah of Northern Illinois University.

The good news is that Ivory Coasts’ neighbors in West Africa now accept the reality on the ground. In an important declaration this week, ECOWAS (the critical West African political group) has called on Gbagbo to step aside. May he heed the request from his neighbors.

G. Pascal Zachary blogs at Africa Works.

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