President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal has been invited to mediate in Ivory Coast's political stalemate and will travel there on Thursday, Wade's spokesman said.
Years of mediation efforts by Burkina Faso President Blaise Compoare have failed to usher Ivory Coast towards elections, which would trigger new investment and rejuvenate the agricultural sector of the top cocoa grower, analysts say.
"President Wade is going to Ivory Coast for a working visit. He has been asked by President (Laurent) Gbagbo to speak to all sides to try and unblock the situation," Mamadou Mamba Ndiaye, Wade's spokesman, told Reuters on Wednesday.
"He is going there as a wise man of Africa to support all the efforts that are being made in Ivory Coast."
Ivory Coast is still recovering from a 2002-03 civil war that split the country in two, and has repeatedly delayed post-war elections originally due in 2005 after rows over the disarmament of rebels and the drawing-up of voter lists.
U.N. officials have said leaders on all sides of the political conflict are benefitting from the status quo through a mix of illegal taxation, corruption and smuggling.
Ivory Coast's press speculated on Wednesday that Wade's arrival would signal the end of Compoare's efforts to solve the crisis. There was no immediate comment from Burkina Faso.
Wade has previously thrown himself into mediation efforts in Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Mauritania, Niger, Chad and Sudan.
Gbagbo sacked the election commission in February, sparking violent protests in some towns. A new election body is now in place but the commission's work remains paralysed.
Rows over whether the rebels should disarm before or after elections have resurfaced, and United Nations experts accuse all sides of stalling.
"Put simply, political leaders in the north and the south appear unwilling to reunite the country because they benefit, politically and economically, from a divided country," the U.N. Group of Experts on Ivory Coast said in an April 12 report to the Security Council.
"These are advantages that might be lost in the event of free and fair elections."
Although Ivorian cocoa production levels have mostly held up since the war, plantations are ageing and the lack of investment is taking its toll. This year's crop will fall below last year's, which was the worst in five years.
ReutersLast Mod: 21 Nisan 2010, 20:39