Former president Thabo Mbeki is to return to Ivory Coast to help resolve a disputed presidential election that threatens to see the West African country slide into war.
Mbeki was first involved there following elections-related violence in 2002.
His spokesperson, Mukoni Ratshitanga, said Mbeki and his team “are going to the Ivory Coast but are busy with final preparations”.
The trip comes as Mbeki’s other mediation project in the Sudan approaches its most testing moment.
On January 11 the Sudanese will hold a referendum to decide whether to split the country into north and south.
The results will have an effect on the whole continent, not just the region. It could lead to other rebel groups wanting to secede from their countries.
Though Mbeki has called the Sudan crisis “the most complex”, he has now accepted to mediate in the Ivorian presidential election dispute, which might prove to be equally challenging.
About a quarter of Ivory Coast’s 20million population is perceived to be made up of non-Ivorians who have gained citizenship, although their bona fides are being disputed by interested locals.
Ivorians went to the polls on October 31 in their first election since 2002, with a UN-ratified voters’ roll comprising 5.7?million voters.
The election saw one of the heavyweight opposition candidates, Alassane Ouattara, declared the winner by the electoral commission, an outcome backed by independent observers.
However, this was overturned by the constitutional council, which declared incumbent Laurent Gbagbo the winner.
Ouattara has the backing of rebels in the north while Gbagbo has the support of the military.
Gbagbo has been in power since 2000 and his mandate expired in 2005.
He came to power when thousands of supporters staged mass protests to stop the late junta leader, Robert Guei, from stealing the country’s last elections.
So far Gbagbo has been kept in power by an understanding that conditions were not stable enough to hold elections.