The president of an African Inter-faith peace group has called on religious leaders to protest over Ivory Coast's presidential election dispute, in which two politicians have been sworn in as head of State - writes Fredrick Nzwili.
The Rev Ishmael Noko, former Lutheran World Federation General Secretary, said on 9 December 2010, Ivory Coast's people are being forced to accept an intolerable political situation, as incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo continues to cling to power after losing to opposition candidate, Alassane Ouattara.
"Today the Ivorian people find themselves forced to accept an unacceptable political environment of one country, two Presidents," said Noko, who is president of the Inter-faith Action for Peace in Africa, in a letter made available to ENInews.
"The democratic will of the people of Ivory Coast is clear …. Therefore further attempts to manipulate their expressed will should not be allowed by any standard of political measurement.
"We need to be alert to Africa’s political development, where those in power choose to disrespect the people's democratically expressed will for political change," said Noko, a Zimbabwean, whose country's president, Robert Mugabe, has refused to accept defeat in an election.
"It seems as if the tendency in Africa now is: when you lose elections, you refuse to recognise defeat, hang on to power and wait for a negotiated deal for power sharing. There has already been an example or examples of such a situation on the continent. Let us call for an end to such political and moral tendencies."
He asked the other faith leaders in his group to "find responsible ways and channels through which to express your dismay at the political development in the Ivory Coast".
On 2 December, Ivory Coast's Independent Electoral Commission declared Ouattara the winner of the 28 November runoff by 54.1 per cent to Gbagbo's 45.9 percent. But a constitutional council, run by Gbagbo's ally, overruled the IEC results, saying the ballot had been fraudulent in northern regions and that the leader had received 51 percent.
The United Nations Security Council says Ouattara won the poll, but Gbagbo has defied international calls for him to quit, using the backing of his army. With tensions mounting and growing scarcity of commodities, the African Union moved on 9 December to suspend the country over the election dispute, until Gbagbo hands power to Ouattara.
In 2007, a presidential election dispute threw Kenya into chaos during which 1300 died. With the country edging toward anarchy, the incumbent President Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga, now the Prime Minister, agreed to share power in a coalition government. Noko called for an end to such political and moral tendencies.
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International  is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Communion of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]