Jesse Jackson expresses optimism for Ivory Coast election

The Rev. Jesse Jackson ended a trip to the Ivory Coast on Friday, after he spoke to leaders from the nation’s political parties and was honored as a prince by a tribe in the West African nation.

Jackson said he met with President Laurent Gbagbo and leading members of two opposition parties, Henri Konan Bedie and Alassane Ouattara. Bedie is a former president of the nation and Ouattara is a former prime minister. Jackson said his mission was not to endorse a candidate, “but a process.” “I wanted the three of them to agree … [to] campaign vigorously … not to create divisive language, to each agree to support the winner, [and] end the [U.N.] sanctions,” he said. “I think there’s a common agreement on these points. This country has so much to offer the world and Africa.” The United Nations imposed sanctions on the nation in 2004, among them, a ban on arms and diamond trades, a travel ban and asset freezes for some individuals. The sanctions, renewed last year, are in effect until October 29. Earlier in Jackson’s trip, Amon N’Douffou V, king of the Krindjabo kingdom, named Jackson a prince of the Agni people, news reports said. Jackson said it was a “very exciting ceremony.” Jackson’s wife, Jacqueline, suffered a broken leg during the trip when a stage she and her husband were on collapsed, Jackson told CNN in a telephone interview. “We had excellent medical care,” the pastor said, adding that the collapse was “not the fault of the organizers,” but that too many people had gathered on the stage. Official news agency Agence Ivoirienne de Presse reported that the stage collapse occurred in a sports complex in Yopougon, north of Abidjan. A doctor was to accompany them on their Friday night flight back to the United States, Jackson said. The coming elections in the Ivory Coast are being closely watched by U.N. officials. In a July 30 statement, the U.N. Security Council said “any postponement of the elections of 29 November would be inconsistent with a credible process” and with a peace agreement that had followed an armed rebellion in 2002 that had divided the country in two. The Security Council said it would review progress toward elections before October 15. In March, U.S. State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid said the “United States believes that long-delayed presidential elections are still technically possible in 2009 and calls on all parties to take every step necessary to ensure that credible elections go forward as promised.” The statement said more than 5.7 million people had been enrolled as voters on a “preliminary basis.”