by Tichaona Chifamba
HARARE, Jan. 7 (Xinhua) -- Cote d'Ivoire's disputed leader Laurent Gbagbo has gone on a diplomatic offensive, courting the support of some and severing ties with others as he tries to cling on to power amid disapproval from the international community.
While he was expelling British and Canadian ambassadors to his country on Thursday, Gbagbo was also dispatching a special envoy to Zimbabwe to solicit the support of President Robert Mugabe.
In expelling the envoys, Gbagbo, who is fighting like a cornered lion, was reacting to Britain and Canada's decision not to recognize his envoys to those countries.
His special envoy Zogou H.B. Abie met Zimbabwe's Acting President John Nkomo on Thursday, since Mugabe, himself a victor in disputed elections in 2008, is away on leave.
Gbagbo wants a vote re-count and the setting up of an international commission to audit the voting process.
However, Zimbabwe's position is that it will be guided by the African Union (AU) on the crisis, according to Secretary for Media, Information and Publicity George Charamba, who is also the presidential spokesperson.
Analysts said on Friday that Gbagbo's expedition to Zimbabwe was meant to shore up support from a person who, like him, is being vilified by the West following the handling of disputed elections.
"Mugabe has been at loggerheads with the West, especially the United States and Britain, over election and governance issues and may be the one to understand Gbagbo's situation better than most African leaders, some of whom have already urged Gbagbo to step down," one analyst said.
Gbagbo, in rebuking western intervention to the crisis in his country, recently said Mugabe may not have been entirely wrong in the way he behaved after the 2008 elections.
"When you go through what I've been through, you tell yourself, 'Perhaps Mugabe wasn't completely wrong after all'," he said.
The difference between Mugabe and Gbagbo, however, is that while Gbagbo's criticism came from all corners of the world, very few African leaders spoke against Mugabe after the disputed elections.
In Mugabe's case, most African leaders saw the dispute as between Africa on the one hand and Europe and the United States on the other. But with Gbagbo, there is a united front to oust him, both from within the continent and abroad.
The Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS), of which Cote d'Ivoire is a member, also wants Gbagbo to leave office.
The AU, which has also not endorsed Gbagbo's re-election, has asked Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga to mediate in the crisis.
However, questions arise as to the wisdom of sending Odinga to mediate, given that he empathizes with Gbagbo's challenger Alassane Ouattara.
Odinga lost in disputed elections to incumbent President Mwai Kibaki in 2007, following which Kenya plunged into violence before former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan brokered a power-sharing agreement.
"Asking Odinga to mediate in the crisis is like inviting Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to do the same. Their objectivity will always be questioned because they feel they are also victims of people who lose elections but don't want to relinquish power. In any case, Odinga has already called for military intervention to remove Gbagbo," an analyst said.
And with ECOWAS and the AU also determined to remove him from office, it remains to be seen how far, or how long, his diplomatic offensive can take him.
The possibility of power-sharing seems remote, given that those in such arrangements have dismissed them as unworkable.
At present, political parties in Kenya and Zimbabwe are in marriages of convenience following disputed elections, with Togo also considering the same option.
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